Saturday, 21 December 2013

Mutant Monster Vegies

Hello there, we are back from a visit to Perth to catch up with family.  My god it was hot, I thought I was melting! 

Just before we headed to Perth we had our Embroidery Xmas Wind-Up.  The special green tablecloths came out and decorations were scattered.  One lady made the most magnificent floral arrangements using flowers from her lovely garden.  Lots of chatting occurred...
 And lots of eating of the yummy food everyone contributed.  None of us needed dinner that night!
Our secret Santa swap this year was that we all had to make a potholder with a bit of embroidery on it.  After we have opened our gift we lay them out on the tables and everyone cruised round to have a look.  I made the butterfly one in the top left corner. 
Then it was back home to continue the gathering of the gifts to take to Perth.  I had been furiously cooking and cooking as I wanted to give home-made basket of goodies to the family members.  Here the cranberry and pistachio biscotti is cooling.  I also made ginger and orange biscuits and vanilla bean shortbread.
Then it was on to the preserves.  Here we have the strawberry jam in progress.  Along with that was mango chutney, apple butter, spicy meat marinade, pickled beetroot, pickled onions and lemon butter.  Although I ended up not taking the lemon butter due to the heat as I wasn't sure if it go off or something dreadful.  Not to worry, it is all sitting in my fridge in nice, cool Albany ha ha ha.  I did attempt making turkish delight too as I found a microwave recipe, but it went a weird, solid, jelly-like texture so that was abandoned.
I also made Michelle a moss terrarium.  Steve kindly helped out by making me a hobbit door to sit in my moss hillside.  :-)  Steve made Michelle a wooden book sculpture as an early birthday present too.  Paul (the gadget boy) was delighted with his Pebble watch and proclaimed our local distillery's whisky liqueur the best thing he'd every drunk.  :-)
The dress-up box was finally ready.  I made a glitzy skirt and cape each, and gathered hats, a pink wig, a coat, various things to fling around one's neck and other assorted items, so it was a nice big box of variety.
 Ooo, said Stevie and Riley, what's in the box?
 Yay, dress-ups!
 I wonder how many dress-ups I can wear all at the same time, and in 38 degrees no less!
On our return home, we were greeted with a large cache of eggs.  The hens had been left with ample water and food, however they missed their treats and made it plain by not laying quite as many eggs as we were expecting.  They have forgiven us now and once again are enjoying porridge for breakfast and hand-picked grass (since they have obliterated every blade of grass in their yard!).
Steve very kindly made me a new clothes line using some angle iron and line our friend Mel generously gave him.  My makeshift line using a few star pickets and some rope has been okay, but a bit low and not enough hanging space, so my new double line up nice and high is terrific.  Thanks darl!
I finally got my cliveas planted.  I have had a heap of them in pots since we left Perth nearly two years ago, and they were starting to protest.  It took me a while to find the right spot, clivea like shade but will tolerate a titch of early morning sun.  Under this huge peppermint tree seems the ideal location, and it is fairly central so we can enjoy seeing the green, strappy leaves and beautiful orange winter flowers.  And the roos and rabbits don't eat them which is a huge bonus!
We recently bought two huge rolls of barley straw from a local farmer and have been busily mulching everything.  We are on sandy soil and it dries out so darn fast, so a good thick mulch should be invaluable over the summer.  These are our citrus trees, that are all looking so much happier and healthier.  I don't know if you remember, but half of them were reduced to dead looking sticks for a few months, but with reducing the grass growing close to them, pouring masses of compost and fertiliser into the ground, netting them off from rabbits and roos, and now the thick mulch, it's all go hopefully!
This photo was taken a month ago, it's the newly fenced area for vegie growing.  At the front is corn and potatoes at the back.  They had been in for about five weeks and were growing well.
This photo was taken yesterday.  It is back to front from the one above but as you can see, in the past four weeks there has been massive growth! 
To give you an idea of the size of things, can you see Steve's head poking up behind the corn?  Holy freaking monster vegies Batman!!  In only nine weeks we have massive corn plants already setting tassels, and huge potato plants flowering profusely, we can't quite believe it!
Normally Steve would expect tiny new potatoes after about 12 weeks of growing, but he had a tiny dig yesterday and found some 1/4 kilo spuds after only nine weeks!!  Yum yum yum is all I have to say on the matter.  :-)  We thought we had only planted Dutch Creams and King Edwards but we suspect this one is a rogue, possibly a Nicola or a Nadine.  We saved our small King Edwards to replant and I think a few of the other sorts have got in there too.  No matter, home grown potatoes of any variety are nice.  King Edwards are a bit pink around the eyes.  Steve has picked some King Edwards, some Dutch Creams, some Norlands (red ones from last year) and these ones, so tonight we are going to have a taste test!
It is always good to catch up with friends and family, but it is also really good to be home.  In the cool!  It has been really dry here over the last month and grass is drying up everywhere, but we had a wonderful 25mL of rain a couple of days ago so there is a green tinge happening, not to mention the satisfaction of seeing the water tank measure creeping up again.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

No Vampires Here

Far out it has been busy around here, I have to write myself a list every day of things to accomplish.  Mostly I am on track, however there is always one or two items that I slide over to the next day, and the next day....
Now, I cannot speak of any of the above as this would be delving into secret Xmas gift business :-)
Nevertheless, other stuff is happening around here too...
Things are being cooked
 The chooks are always happy when I am doing extra cooking, look at this feast for their breakfast - this is all the apple skins and cores cooked up with some bran, oats and water.  They went rather ballistic when this was presented to them - bums up and not a peep out of them!
Speaking of apples, our little Bramley apple tree has 7 apples on it, and the wild parrots have been eyeing them off, so they are now safely netted.  I reckon parrots know that nets contain yummy things, they seem to be hanging around all the more, staring longingly through the net.  They've had their revenge though, having recently found my strawberries.  I have been happily picking half a dozen strawberries a day, but the last two days chunks have been chewed out of the best ones.  Grrr!
A week ago I set about making some rhubarb and elderflower champagne.  I guess it's called champagne as it gets very bubbly, but the alcohol content is very low.  Doesn't it sound wonderful though... rhubarb and elderflower champagne, so olde worlde eh.
This is it newly bottled, isn't it pretty.  Sadly it loses most of its lovely pink colour as it matures.  We tried the tiny half bottle the other day, if you drink it very young it is basically a slightly bubbly cordial.  Very sweet but very very nice flavour.  
Each bottle is now safely wrapped in a wad of newspaper, the bottles are inside cardboard cartons, the cartons are inside a big plastic tub with towels wrapped round the cartons, and the plastic tub lid is securely on, and the whole lot is tucked away in the bottom shelf of the cupboard in the laundry!!  These are my precautions for a brew that is very very bubbly and bottles can sometimes explode.  Nowadays we have the advantage of using plastic bottles and strong glass ones that have the metal flip top thingy and the ceramic stopper.  But I have to remember that if I hear gunshots in the night is may be the champers!  
There has been shiny pink sewing happening.  I am in the process of making Stevie and Riley some dress-up glitzy glam for their Christmas present.
 First skirt done.
 We had a barbeque here with our friends Ruth, Laurie, Lesley and Andy last week, which was fun.  Lesley managed to bring a blueberry crumble cake on the back of a Harley!  Clever girl :-)
Laurie brought Steve an old pair of rusted shearer's clippers and threw the idea to him of making a couple of knives, one for each of them, perhaps for fishing.  Steve has been dabbling with knife making lately so he hurried off to his shed for the next few days and produced these.
Aren't they beautiful, and it is amazing how much they shined up.  I love the old Sheffield stamp on them. He's made the handles slightly different shapes so they can have a play with them and see which is more comfortable.
 He has also made a couple more books, which I think are beautiful too.  Clever lad.
I harvested our garlic a couple of days ago.  Steve planted double what he did last year, but for some reason this year's garlic is very small, the weather must have more conducive last year when we grew big fat garlic.  Never mind, it is still garlic!  First job was to trim the roots and brush off the soil.
I wanted to try my hand at making a garlic braid.  They look so cool, you see pictures of Italian kitchens with garlic braids hanging up.  It's a good way to store the garlic too, it stays nice and airy around the globes, so they don't rot.  After viewing a few Youtube videos of how to make a garlic braid, I gave it a go. (isn't the internet wonderful for learning things!)
Ta-dum!  One giant braid of garlic!  Enough to keep the most persistent vampire away ha ha.  Now I need a nail in the kitchen to hang it from.... "Steve, I have a little job for you....." :-)
On a final note, it is the start of the 'tossing the joeys out of the pouch' warmer weather.  I spotted this gangly little one having one of its first outs.  They are so scrawny when they first start leaving the pouch.  So here we have joey out....
 And here we have joey in!  What a load eh!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A Wander Around

I worry sometimes that I don't have anything very interesting to say on this blog, and I am just inanely repeating myself.  I hope I'm not boring anyone.  In saying that, as I couldn't think of anything to write about today, I took myself and my camera for a stroll around the property, clicking away, so come take a walk with me.

First stop, right outside the front door, is my old faithful blueberry bush that lives in a big pot.  Every day for the last month or so I have had the pleasure of nibbling on half a dozen ripe blueberries.  Sometimes I share a few with Steve, but not often.  :-)
Beside the blueberry pot is this lovely hippeastrum flower, the very first one.  At our embroidery group, we all bring in a small thing and pay 50 cents to be part of our weekly raffle, to raise money for our Xmas party.  As your number gets called out, you go up to the table and choose something from the varied array that people have brought in.  A while back I chose some hippeastrum bulbs that someone had dug from their garden.  I was thrilled last week to see a big flower stem with three buds appear, and this is the first flower to bloom.
Next stop, at the north-east side of the house next to the driveway is an example of the beautiful white fluffy blossom on one of our jarrah trees.  Isn't it pretty. 
To the side of our house and continuing down the northern border is a line of massive old marri (Corymbia calophylla) trees, following what looks to be an old, dry creek line.  Marri (also known as red gums due to the dark red gum the bark exudes) are the gumnut trees and we often see the Whitetail and Redtail black parrots in the tops of these trees, munching on the seeds inside the gumnuts, then dropping the gumnuts to the ground.  You wouldn't want to be standing under these trees when the gumnuts are raining down! 
Halfway down the hill I turn and look back at what we have accomplished here in a couple of years.  To think if you had looked at this hill before that you would see nothing at all.  I mentioned last post about how it has suddenly dried out, this grass (and weeds) was bright green a couple of weeks ago, things change fast.
 At the bottom of the hill we stop at the lower end of the creek, a winter creek that normally flows from about May to October.  It was minutely trickling a couple of days ago but it looks like it has officially ceased for the summer.
Whilst at the bottom of the hill let's go over to the big peppermint tree in the corner.  This is most amazingly intricate and superbly constructed nest.  It's a cone shaped structure of twigs and various bits of detritus, with a tiny round hole about 2/3rds of the way down, with a tiny twig roof on a jaunty angle above the tiny opening.  We spotted it a week ago and I'm trying to work out which little bird it belongs to.  Upon doing some research I am thinking it might belong to a Western Gerygone.
This is the tree the nest is in, with the red arrow pointing to it.  So well camouflaged isn't it.  How does a bird know that the nest it is making will end up being a good one?  They are clever little things.
I start to follow the creek line up the hill, through our little peppermint (Agonis flexuosa) forest.  I stop at one of the ancient, gnarled old trees and admire the lichen that is growing on a branch above my head.
This is the lower part of the forest, just about all peppermint trees.  All very tall, some very big and tall, some very spindly and tall, all growing as tall as they can to get their share of sunlight.  It is lovely and cool in here in summer, about ten degrees cooler than out in the sun.  This is where we like to bring friends to play a game of boules.  It is fun to fling the jack into various tricky spots.
On the outskirts of this part of the forest is a big, old, fallen log and a pile of old bracken.  Steve thought he saw a tiger snake hiding under the log a few weeks ago, so we are cautious around this area.  I walk past at a safe distance, and sure enough, a big fat tiger snake is sunning himself just in front of the log.  I have a very good zoom on my camera so I photograph him with plenty of metres between him and me.  We are a long way from our house and outbuildings up the hill and I respect his right to be here.
I carry on through the forest, following the creek bed up the hill.  This is the corner of our place where our section of the creek comes from.  More beautiful big peppermint trees and the occasional jarrah here. 
I follow the top boundary halfway along and then start downwards towards the shed.  The outskirts of the forest here has more diversity.  As well as peppermints, look at this one just dripping with lovely white flowers, there are jarrah and also these pretty native willows (Callistachys lanceolata).  It's the one beside the peppermint with the yellow flowers.  Tiny birds abound in this area.
 Here's a closeup of the native willow flowers.  Such a pretty yellow colour.
Continuing downhill again, past the shed, we arrive at the vegie growing area.  This is the new section we fenced off this year to give us more space.  The potatoes and sweetcorn are growing well.
In the corner of the main vegie patch, the rhubarb has sprung back to life with a vengeance, talk has been had to try and find the old old recipe for rhubarb champagne.
We must stop and admire Steve's gigantor onions.  They are massive, as they also were last year, and extremely juice and delicious.  We've just started using them.
Moving now into my fenced garden, we say hello to the hens who always curious and become a captive audience whenever people are nearby.
The strawberries are ripening at a rate of knots with the warmer weather.  Rarely do they make it back to the house, nothing is nicer than standing in the garden eating strawberries warm from the sun.  Like the blueberries, there is usually about half a dozen ripe ones every day.  The chooks are rather fond of the strawberry tops.  I nibble all the luscious red part then toss the tops through the netting above their yard.  Fastest chicken on two legs is the victor.
This is the most exciting thing happening at the moment.  As we have yet to build our orchard fence, the few fruit trees we have are in pots in my fenced garden, to keep them safe from roos and rabbits.  This little tree is one we have nursed since a tiny stick, it is a Bramley apple, an old English variety, reputedly one of the best cooking apples ever.  Look!  It has teeny tiny apples on it!  These are the biggest two, about the size of a cherry, and I have seen perhaps half a dozen smaller ones on other branches, and it is still flowering. 
And this is the other exciting thing.  This even smaller tree is a Cox's Orange Pippin, another old English variety, reputedly a brilliant eating apple.  Steve was quite delirious with joy when we found a nursery down here that stocked the tree.  It has put on loads of leaf growth which is great, but yesterday I noticed this, see that tiny pink thing at the top of the branch?  It's a flower bud!!  Even if we only get one apple we will be happy, it would be a major achievement for a tiny tiny apple tree.
This is the remnants of my seed raising bed experiment I planted a month or so ago.  It hasn't been very successful so I will do something different next time.  I don't think my choice of growing medium was the right one, I used a combination of coir and food scraps compost, and all that really happened was that the millions of tomato seeds in the compost germinated and not much else.  I managed to get some lettuce and cabbage seedlings and one zucchini into the ground from here, but a lot of things just haven't come up.  Next time I think will invest in proper seed raising mixture, but I think I will still put the seedling trays inside the box for protection. 
My fenced garden is looking quite pretty at the moment, it looks fuller than it actually is as I put in annuals for some temporary colour and there are still a lot of things in pots that are grouped together, waiting for me to plant them.  
The kangaroo paw cuttings are continuing to grow and flower which I am thrilled about.  The orange hybrid proves to be the abundant successful cutting from our Perth garden, but I am happy to see one of the yellows and one of the reds are also appearing.  Excellent.  Once kangaroo paws take hold they are a beautiful display.
Well, that's it for today, time for a cuppa.  Hope you enjoyed coming on the walk with me.  :-)