Monday, October 29, 2012

Flutter and Buzz

I wish to quote myself, something that I uttered only one week ago.....

"So far, touch wood, we haven't had a huge problem with insect pests"

I believe the flying insect world heard me, had a conference, and decided that the our property was the place to be.  There are fifty trillion tiny moths having a wonderful time living and cavorting and laying eggs in plants, but they have a particular love for the brassica family, that being cabbages, broccoli, brussels sprouts and the like.  It is said that you can grow cabbages all year, but in reality it is better to grow them in winter because there are far less bugs around.  We have only a few broccoli and cabbage plants left anyway, so we may pull them up and concentrate on the new plantings, which are the summer crops like tomatoes. 

It is amazing how one day there are no moths and then suddenly there are hundreds of them.  Not only moths, I was standing at the shed window washing dishes when I noticed gazillions of bees swarming outside.  But what was interesting was that had that happened in our city back garden, they would have hung around for hours and turned into a seething mass in a tree that was ultra scary, but out here in the countryside, the big swarm just cruised slowly past and made their way off through the forest.

The other phenomenon that occurs late October, coinciding with the farmers cutting pasture for hay making, is the arrival of mega millions of bush flies!  The sort that like to crawl in your mouth and your nose and your eyes.  When working outside, measures must be taken to keep one's sanity and avoid shrieking every swear word in one's vocabulary.  You have no idea how brilliant fly nets are, and boy does it stick it up the flies, who crawl over the net mere inches from your face that they desperately want to get to, and cant.  Ha!  Sucked in flies!
I have prattled on rather a lot about bugs!  It is something you just have to accept and get used to if you want to be a country bumpkin, it's all good.  :-)
However, I ordered something interesting today.  We try to be organic and not use pesticides,  and I am dabbling in companion planting and beneficial insect attracting plants.  I was watching a David Attenborough show about plants on ABC last night and they showed  glass houses in Kew Gardens and how they hang cards covered with the eggs of predatory insects which hatch and help to control pest bugs.  I had heard that you can buy eggs of predatory insects and that show got me interested again, so I hit the internet and found what I was looking for.  After some research, I've ordered 500 lacewing eggs from here, it will be very interesting to see what happens.  They may all hatch and nick off but worth a try.

In the meantime, the sugar snap peas and snow peas are slowing down after a fantastic crop, gosh we have eaten so many, they have been brilliant.  The broad beans are in abundance at the moment too and being young, are very yummy.  I picked heaps of both, blanched them and froze them.  It will be nice to still be able to enjoy eating them when the plants have finished.
 
We have rather relaxed kangaroos here.  No hopping for this lot, lazing and lolling is the much preferred option.
House update.  We have been busy painting the skirting boards.  As we are old crocks, crawling around on our hands and knees for hours means evenings of anti-inflammatories, hot wheat packs and drinking wine to recover.  Possibly everyone else in the world already knows about these, but we made the most fabulous discovery and purchase to assist us. Da-dum - knee pads! 
 
No idea which way up we are supposed to wear them but this is the most comfortable.  They are brilliant, so comfortable when kneeling on a concrete floor.  Here is moi modelling them.


And here we have a skirting board for your viewing pleasure, complete with three coats of "White Illusion" in satin sheen.
Our builder put skirting boards along the front of the hearth, and I like the way it ties it in to the rest of the house, apparent now it has a coat of paint on it.  The wood fire is sitting in position, just awaiting the installation of the flue.
This is the cupboard in the laundry.  Three sliding doors along the length of one wall,  and floor to ceiling shelves within, I love it!
We have a walk-in robe in our room, with the standard single shelf.  We asked our builder very nicely if he would put a couple of extra shelves above the standard ones.  Our ceilings are higher than normal so there is room for another shelf.  One above the robe door...
And one across the back of the robe.  You have no idea how happy I am to have so much built-in storage space in this house!  Our last house had virtually none and it was something I was determined not have happen again.
I have one little urk with the house, very small but it niggles at me at the moment.  These are the fluoro lights we chose for the living area and kitchen.  Simple, bright and easy to change the globe and clean.  Looks okay up close.
 
But as you move further away from the light, the round baseplate becomes visible.  I am sure that with the ceiling painted white and the passing of time it will become insignificant, but for now I can't stop looking at it, arrgh!
And finally, here is a photo of the hallway.  Every morning for an hour or so the sun comes in the back windows and I love seeing the sunbeams dancing across the floor.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Let There Be Light....And Water

Gosh, lots of things have happened since my last post. 
We have been enjoying the produce from our vegie garden.  Things have been growing like mad with the warmer days but still plentiful rain.  So far, touch wood, we haven't had a huge problem with insect pests which is great as we are trying to be organic. 
Occasionally though, after gentle measures have not helped, we have a wee squirt of chemicals.  This brussels sprouts plant, however, was a lost cause even with chemicals.  The brussels sprouts plants did not fare well in this regard, we think they were planted too close together.  Isn't this a hideous sight, seething with bugs, these plants are coming out tomorrow and we'll burn them, no way am I polluting the compost heap with these critters.
This one plant however, is fabulous, covered in fat, bug-free brussels sprouts.  It's growing on the outside of the line and gets the most light, hence our theory that the others are too sheltered.  Steve will enjoy eating these anyway, I will enjoy one or two, not my favourite vegie.

Look at these flowers, aren't they pretty.  They are the flowers from a herb called borage.  Traditionally these were dipped in egg white and castor sugar and used to decorate cakes, maybe I'll dabble with that later.  I grow it as a herb that is good for the soil and is a bee magnet.  It has grown really well and will self-seed so it will be a keeper.  You can eat the leaves but they are quite spiky-hairy so I don't, but the flowers are a different matter.  My children know of my love of putting weird things into salads, nothing like some flowers or petals or fruit to liven up a salad I say! They don't have much taste, just a hint of sweetness, but the gorgeous colour is their highlight.
  
There you go, how is that for a pretty salad.  Greens include spinach, rocket, lettuce and chives, herbs include parsley, thyme and lemon balm, legumes include sugar snap peas, snow peas and broad beans, and for colour we have carrots, grated raw beetroot (that I am addicted to) and borage flowers.  Oozing vitamins I would say. :-)
 
Here's our dinner that night; pretty salad, potato salad and beer battered pike that Steve caught.  Yummitiyumyumyum!
 
We have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the plumbing team this week, to do all the outside work.  This is where the septic tanks are to be installed.  But wait, what is that over there?.....
 
Peekaboo, I see you!  Cheeky roo having a surreptitious peep from below.  Is it safe?  Can I eat this particularly delicious looking grass?
Darn tootin' I can, and while I'm here I'll hop up and have a good stickybeak at this here house.  God I love kangaroos. :-)
 Anyway, the plumbing team arrived.  The hot water system went in.
 The stove was put into position and connected up.
 
 The septic tanks arrived  along with lots of big boys toys.  Big holes were dug and much sand was piled up.
 The first tank is in position.
 The second tank is lifted over the hole.
 And gently and deftly manouevred into place
 Another huge truck arrived carrying all the leach drains.  We have to have two 12 metre leach drains positioned parallel to and about 30 metres down the hill from the house.
 
Lots of trenches were dug by natty machines to connect the house to the septic tanks and to the leach drains.
 
All finished.  All holes filled in and surfaces smoothed out.  We have been waiting months for this to be done as we haven't been able to plant in lots of areas knowing it all had to be dug up.
 
Next was the return of the electrician.  While he busied himself inside finishing light fittings and ceiling fan installations, Steve got to to work with his trusty trenching shovel and dug the trench from the shed to the house for the power connection.  As luck would have it he discovered that the guys that installed power to our shed had left some extra pipe under the ground, so Steve only had to dig half the distance.  He was pleased.
And the grand finale of the trench digging and the electrician connecting bits and pieces up in the meter box meant - Ta Dum - we have power in the house!!!  Looky here at this ceiling fan, which trust me, is rotating, and its light is sparkling and shining.
 Here are the inside lights....
 Here are the outside lights.....
 And here are the whole darn lot of them switched on, we are lit up like a Christmas tree!
And the grand finale of superb is that now the house water tank's pump has power, so we have running water!!  Woohoo, who knew how thrilling these things we take for granted are! :-)
We have some cupboard work to be done, the shower screens and mirrors to go in, some fine tuning of window closures, weather strips to go on the doors, and the whole house to be cleaned, including windows (hallelujah! I thought I'd have to do it) and I think the builders are finished!

We also managed to get a bit of painting done inside.  Technically we are not allowed to paint inside before handover, but our supervisor is letting do what he calls "opportunistic walls".  Thus we have painted behind the stove and toilets before they went in, and yesterday we painted behind where the solid fuel heater will be installed and in the walk-in robe before the shelving goes in.  Today we were both feeling rather stiff and sore so we had an outing.  First stop was to organise the delivery of our two big gas bottles that connect to the side of the house.  They are for our hot water and our hotplates. Then we had a lovely drive around Denmark and checked out the beaches, then we had lunch at the Denmark Tavern - 2 courses for $21.95 each.  Recommended!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cows and Donkeys

We went for an outing last week, driving down Frenchman's Bay Road to have a look at The Gap, then we stopped at Stony Hill and went for a bit of a walk.  There were some lovely flowers out that I photographed, then identified when we got home.  This one is a Cowslip Orchid, a tiny little thing only a couple of inches off the ground.
 Isn't this a cool little flower, another tiny one, about six inches off the ground.  It's a Donkey Orchid.
This one, I believe, is a Dryandra.  The plant is very Banksia-like and the flower is gorgeous.  I think I'd like to try and grow a couple of these in my garden.  Will have to investigate how not to kill one before I buy it.  :-)
Stony Hill.  You stand on the top and turn around 360 degrees and see great views all round.
Steve took this terrific photo on misty morning on the road.  I love the bird flying across the misty background.
Mum and Dad drove down from Perth along with my Aunty Gill and Uncle Tony from UK for a visit.  We sat around under a big tree eating freshly picked peas, homemade beetroot dip and home pickled olives.  It was the one single hot day out of the blue, about 32 degrees.  I spent the day with a beetroot red face, being a person that prefers arctic weather.  :-)  Today we are back to stormy, windy, rain and cool, so I am blissfully cool again.  Anyway, here's a photo of  Dad, Steve, Gill, Mum and Tony atop the Lookout at Shelley Beach.  It was lovely to see you all.
We discovered that when one goes out to dinner and leaves the light on in one's shed so one can see the keyhole on their return, one finds the entire moth population of Torbay enjoying said shed.  They were everywhere!!
 
Work continues at a cracking pace on the house.  The plumbers unpacked the stove to connect the gas line.  I can't believe how wide it is, 900 mm!  I think my previous wall oven was not much more than half that.  This oven has all sorts of scary looking settings that are going to require much study to understand.  Looking forward to using it, cooking on a BBQ in the shed has its limits.
The plumbers have also installed the taps.  I like the arched outlet, will be easier to get my mouth under the stream to get a mouthful of water to spit out my toothpaste!
 We have toilets!  No water in them or anything useful like that, but the visual impact is there.  Very exciting!
The electrician was here over the weekend and he has started putting up the light fittings for us.  We decided to pay him extra and provide the light fittings for him to install, rather than him putting up bayonets for bare globes that we would have to change later.  And knowing us, those bare globes would have still been there when we died of old age, so we thought we'd get them all done right now!  Very plain and simple, but nice.
Tomorrow we will have plumbers here starting on the septic system, the electrician will be continuing installing light fittings and the ceiling fans, Pete will be here installing cupboard shelves, and a guy is coming to measure up for our floor coverings.  Phew, crowded!  But great, I think by the end of this week huge amounts of the final things will be finished.  Getting closer!.....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alice In PeaLand

I sit here in our shed, sharing space with tins of paint, light fittings and all sorts of other crap, willing the last few weeks of house construction to hurry up and finish!  I can hardly believe we have lived in a shed for over 8 months.  It's been fine for the most part, but every now and then I have to have a hissy about tripping over things.  Then I have a wee tidy up and vacuum up the sand and dead bugs and boy do I feel better.  :-)

Anyway, house report.  The tiler has finished and we are rapt with his work.  We have breathed a sigh of relief that we like all the tiles we chose, even more so than we imagined.  This is the ensuite shower.  We went for plain old white tiles but we chose the ones with a slight ripple in the surface, rather than smooth.  I love how they look when the light shines on them, all sorts of lovely patterns dance across them.  And above that is the row of little stone tiles for a bit of pizazz.  The glass guy was in today to measure up for the shower screens, can't wait to see it all finished.
The standard for this home is for one row of tiles above the bath, but when we saw it we thought it looked just a little plain.  As it happened, there were quite a few of the little stone tiles left over, and just enough white tiles for a second row.  So, after speaking sweetly to the tiler, he was happy to accommodate our wishes, and he added the row of stone tiles and cut row of white tiles above.  What do you think?  We absolutely love how it looks and I can't wait to have a bath and try it out! :-)
 
This is the kitchen tiling above where the stove will go.  The lower section of the rangehood is in place and the tiler has done an amazing job marrying the two together.
Look what he did, goodness know how.  He cut channels right through two tiles so the arched glass sits inside them, which means the rangehood sits neatly atop the tiles, rather than sitting in midair above them.
We are hoping to see the electrician arrive in a few days and he will start finishing off power points, light switches, light fittings and ceiling fans.  Next week hopefully the plumbers will arrive and then we really will be on the home straight!  In the meantime Madame Pepper lies snoring on her back, oblivious to all but her next meal. 
 We have been busy the last couple of weeks using and preserving plentiful produce.  This is a chocolate beetroot cake which was rather nice.  There are two cups of grated beetroot in this one cake.
 
More beetroot, this batch was destined for pickling and for a dip.  We have had great success growing root crops in our little vegie patch so far, perhaps our soil is good for them.
King Edward potatoes destined for the dinner table tonight.  later..... we had them mashed and they were delicious!
 
But the best thing of all is the masses and masses of sugar snap peas and snow peas that are growing like the clappers.  Every day I skip down to the vegie patch and pick the ones that have matured enough, it's amazing how fast they grow now the weather has warmed up a bit.  But even better is simply wandering around the plants, grazing on peas straight off the plants.  Steve says I am like Alice In PeaLand, every time he turns around he finds me in there.  :-)
We have a few onions growing, just for cooking.  Steve loves pickled onions and when we found a 10 kilo bag of small onions at the local farmers market for $10, it was a given.  We also stocked up on a few more 2 litre jars and vinegar, armed ourselves with knives and set to work preparing the onions.  It didn't take as long as we thought, and doing the job outside in the breeze meant no streaming eyes.
 
And here they are, sitting in their spiced vinegars.  Note Steve's numbering system, which correlates to a file on his computer, where his secret concoction recipes have been written up and hoarded away.  The jars have been tucked away in the cupboard for the magic to happen and we look forward to trying them soon!
Still in the vein of food gathering, Steve and his mate Laurie had a splendiferous day fishing last Monday.  Just look at this haul of fish.  The long ones are pike, the dark pink ones are breaksea cod, the round silver ones are sweep and the light pink ones are orange wrasse.  After they spent hours filleting them, they each ended up with 7 1/2 kilos of fish fillets woohoo.
That restocked the freezer!  Protein with low food miles to keep us going for ages.  Brilliant.
In amongst all this food stuff, we spent a couple of mornings cruising around Albany and Denmark, enjoying some exhibits of the annual Southern Art Trail.  It was good to get out and do something just for the hell of it, we tend to get so caught up in our little hobby farm that sometimes we forget the rest of the world is out there.  Tomorrow we are heading into Albany again, alas this time not for the joy of art, but for a set of new  tyres for my car.  I'll be roadhugging those gravel road curves in no time!