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.  :-)

Monday, 18 November 2013

From Green To Brown

Life is pottering along happily down here.  Our weight lost campaign is going well, we have both lost 5 kilos so far.  The weather has been lovely, low twenties, and we watch on horrified at the heatwave that Perth is already experiencing! However, we haven't had much rain over the last couple of weeks and it is amazing how suddenly the pasture has turned from lush green to browning off.  The kangaroos haven't been around much this week, maybe they are in search of greener grass.  In saying that, last week a couple of them made themselves comfortable in the shade at the back of the house.
Check this female roo out, damp from rain, seriously she needs to chuck that child out.  Have you ever seen such a massive pouch!
I've had to start hand watering my plants, the tiny little natives that I planted behind a big fence about six months ago will need watering probably this summer and next, before they are established enough to fend for themselves.  I'm really pleased actually, I planted about 70 tiny plants and I've only lost 2, and it is very satisfying to see them growing, safe from the munching mouths of kangaroos and rabbits.
The veggies are still doing well, although there is not a huge amount harvestable at present, as there are lots of new seedlings just planted, but the broad beans are just finishing and we've had heaps of those.  I pulled a heap of baby carrots, yum, and Steve's gigantic onions are almost ready.  I pickled a heap of beetroot recently and can announce it delicious, and the second round of beetroot is maturing in dribs and drabs, which is fine as I really like picking one at a time and using it freshly grated on salads.
I wanted to grow a few more pumpkin plants, I have some growing already, but since reading that pumpkins are both liked and are good for chickens I figured the more the merrier.  Turns out I didn't need to plant any seeds, this is a photo of the bottom of the compost bin outside the kitchen.  I dismantled it as I used to compost food scraps but as we now have feathered velociraptors scoffing every scrap around, the need for composting food scraps is no more.  Anyway, this is the compost that was left in the bin, with fifty trillion pumpkin seeds sprouting!  I figure I'll leave a dozen or so to grow in the compost and hopefully will be blessed with many fine pumpkins.  And the feathered girls of 300 eggs will love me all the more.
Our friends Mel and Sheila came to visit for the weekend which was nice.  Sheila came down with a huge container of bunting that she was going to make up for her granddaughter's 21st next week, she was going to hand sew it all, which sounded like a horrifying amount of work to me, so instead we did a production line of Sheila ironing the bias tape in half and working out the order of the coloured triangles, and me on the sewing machine sewing the triangles of fabric to the bias, all done and dusted in a couple of hours. 
Meanwhile the boys playing in our little forest gathering up dead wood and cleaning up.  Whilst in the forest they came across our resident wedgetail eagle, who we haven't seen much lately.  The reason for his absence became apparent, the smart cookie has figured out where the main rabbit hole on our place is, and parks himself quietly in a big tree above, watching, waiting.  And he appears to be rather successful in his hunt, judging by the windswept piles of rabbit fur we keep finding on the ground near the hole.  Good!  There are far far too many rabbits around here, there are little craters all over the place where they keep digging.  It is so cool to have one's own resident eagle! :-)

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Nice Surprise

As we are suffering the scourge of dial-up speed for the next few days, today's post will only have a few photos.  Bloody Windows and its giant updates, it sucked out the last of our usage quietly, oh well, three days til the turnover.

I had a rather nice surprise last week, Albany Show week.  I put  couple of entries into the Embroidery section of Craft, "First Time Exhibitor", and blow me down, I won first and second!  
I finally finished my little garden/cottage embroidery and then made a tote bag, using the embroidery as a pocket.  As well as a swish rosette and a certificate, I also won $35!  That was also a huge surprise and I had fun spending it at the fabric shop the other day.  :-)

Second place was my Particularly Posh Potholder.  Some of the ladies at embroidery were horrified that I was going to use this as a potholder, but I explained that I had planned it carefully, the two embroideries are the right distance apart for my hand if I fold the potholder over to get a hot dish out of the oven, and I stitched it on denim (from an old pair of Steve's jeans) and padded it so it would be nice and thick and heat-proof.

This time of year there are flowering trees everywhere, all beautiful, but we are especially loving our peppermints, which seem to have masses more blossom this year than before, and they look like they have been snowed on.  Lovely.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Ye Olde Booke

Have a look at this -
Pretty eh.  But are you scratching your head, wondering why there is an old book sitting atop a limestone plinth in the garden?
Pan out for a context shot to show the location of the book.  Here it is, just outside the chook yard.  Its purpose is as a wee table top, handy to plonk things on when opening the gate to the yard.  Looks pretty damn cool don't you think.
Here is a closeup.  Look at that aged leather all cracked and worn.  Agree?  Are you sure? This book, this amazing book that Steve made, is in fact a sculpture of a book, made of wood.  I know!  Isn't it the most fantastic thing you've ever seen!
Here it is in its infancy, all raw and pale and chunky.
And here is its origin, third chunk from the left at the front.  Steve removed a 12 kilo piece of wood from that piece of river gum tree trunk with a chainsaw to use.  After trimming, routing and dremeling the finished book sculpture weighs about 11 kilos.
When we built our house, 7 trees had to be felled.  We were a bit sad about that, one was a beautiful river gum, 2 others were gorgeous jarrahs and the rest were peppermints which we love too.  We cleared up the branches and leaves of these trees early last year and the enormous trunks of the river gum and jarrahs sat on the ground for a year before Steve was able to cut them up.  It is such lovely looking wood that we have talked about using some of it for something special.
Here is the man himself, artiste extraordinaire.  He is looking forward to making another one, honing his skills and perfecting his craft.  I have said that I would like lots of book sculptures scattered through our piece of forest, for surprises when people wander through, the response was a raised eyebrow.... :-)

Friday, 1 November 2013

Life Is Good

This is the focus of our life at the moment.  We have both got to the stage of becoming such fatty boombas that everything was becoming that bit more difficult and we were both uncomfortable.  From past experience we find that calorie counting and writing everything that passes our lips down is the way to go.  You can't cheat and it confronts you into eating better.  It's going really well, we have both lost a few kilos and we are getting fitter since we started walking five times a week at the crack of dawn.
This iPad app has been terrific, we take it on our walks and it maps the route using GPS, and tells us all sorts of interesting stuff like distance, time, speed, elevation and calories.  It's funny, we thought we were getting plenty of exercise by simply working around our property but obviously it is not the right kind of exercise to keep fit and lose weight because the difference in our fitness since we started walking is phenomenal!

Hence we have seen more of our local area in the last few weeks than we have done since we moved down here.  Sometimes not intentionally.  We took ourselves off for a forest road walk in West Cape Howe National Park and there was a tantalising little bush track that just had to be investigated.  Then there was a choice of two tracks further on, and before we knew it we were trekking across the open scrubland in the wilds of West Cape Howe.  We found this lake!  Lake William apparently.  Anyway, our 2km walk ended up becoming a 7km epic, we are so proud.  The iPad GPS came in handy to tell us where we were.
Dawn at the beach is rather lovely for walking and I've been taking some photos too.  Isn't the light interesting.  This is Cosy Corner.
 Cosy Corner
 Shelley Beach West Cape Howe
We have also been really busy the past few weeks doing the big property clean-up and bonfires, reducing the fuel load before the fire bans coming in next week.  You have to time it right, if you do it too early before the huge influx of growth then you end up having to do almost as much work again a couple of weeks later.  It always amazes me how growth of plants just explodes this time of year, you can almost see the grass growing before your eyes.  So, after much slashing, mowing, whipper snipping and burning, it is looking quite spiffy around here. 
This piece of forest below is an area that Steve worked hard on, we could never see the beautiful trunk of that old red gum before as there was a mass of twiggy peppermints trees and various scraggy scrub in front.  Steve got to work with his chain saw and we are well pleased with the result. 
The kangaroos have been loving the onset of the warm weather, lolling around being total slackers.  They like lying on the newly mown grass, and often don't move for hours.  They are all scratching like mad, I think they are all losing their thick winter coats and I'm sure there is the odd flea!
On a final note, look what my clever husband made me, a stand for my embroidery hoop, thank you darling x.  It will be so useful, with a lot of embroidery you need to have a hand above and a hand below the hoop to stitch, and up to now I rest one side of the hoop on a table and the other half on me, specifically on my fat tummy.  However, I have discovered that as the fat tummy decreases in size from said diet, my hoop keeps slipping off!  Ha!   :-)