Saturday, May 31, 2014

Chilli Cream Cheese Midnight Delight

The weather has been lovely the last few days, cold nights and sunny days, so we've been busy outside.  Steve is still playing in the orchard, getting the last couple of trees in the ground, then bringing the turf he's dug out up to the house where I am planting it in front of the verandah.  Finally the beginnings of goodbye to all the white sand that blows around.
I've been pulling out buckets and buckets of weeds from the vegie beds.  Cow poo is wonderful to grow stuff in but by crikey does it also produce masses of clover and grass.  Not to worry, at the moment the weeds are small and pull up easily in the damp soil, and the clover puts nitrogen into the soil so there are always positives! :-)

I'm picking loads of greens at the moment.  I let my lettuce go to seed last season, so I could save the seed, and some of it has blown around the place, so I go on lettuce hunts, they have sprung up in all sorts of nooks and crannies.  Love freshly picked lettuce!  Pak Choi, Joy Sum and Tat Soi are the asian greens I put in, and all have grown well.  I don't use a huge amount, just for stir fries, but I share the asian greens with my hens, who devour them with gusto.  My rocket plants grew like the wind, I love baby rocket leaves in salad, but now the plants are going to seed so I shall save some seed then the chooks can tuck into the old plants.  I've spotted the first few baby turnips big enough to pull up for a meal, excellent. 

The best thing, our favourite thing, is the start of the broccolini harvest. In the bowl is the central head, the first thing harvested off each plant.  I chopped these up and froze them.  Then from now on the plants send up tall, skinny side shoots, absolutely delicious tender stems and a small florette head.  And it goes on for a couple of months I reckon.  Good value.
Meanwhile, inside the house we have Neo Da Destructo.  I think I mentioned last blog post about his paper fetish, here is evidence of his time amusing himself, the tail of the villain himself seen left of centre.  He is also fascinated with toilets.  Weirdo.
 A glass of wine at the end of the day, rugged up outside, enjoying yet another incredible sunset.  We only enjoyed it outside for about five minutes though, then we got wimpy and dashed back inside in the warm!  
Late in the night I learned a wee lesson.  I kept hearing noises outside, and finally braved the cold to get up with a torch to investigate through the window.  I learned it is not a good idea to leave a garbage bag of kitchen rubbish just outside the front door, ready to go over to the shed.  Stumpy the Southern Brown Bandicoot (so named for his almost absent tail) had delightedly ripped the bag open, hauled out a stash of interesting bits and pieces, and was found with his head inside an empty chilli cream cheese wrapper, licking out the remainder with relish!  Rubbish bag brought inside, Stumpy's fun ruined, Dy back to bed, lesson learned :-)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Shiny Red Toys

We've had the pleasure of the company of our friends Mel and Sheila this week.  The weather has been rather inclement with rain (hooray!) and strong winds.  The boys managed to get out for a couple of fishing expeditions however, and here we have a photo of my very happy husband with his 4 kg Australian Salmon, yum yum yum.  Tony, this photo is especially for YOU!  >evil grin<
The roos continue with their early morning visits right outside the front door.  Lucy, in photo, and Patience now don't even wait for me to put the food on the ground, they come straight up to me when they see the container and eat right out of my hand.  Lucy's child Lucky is not quite so brave and waits his turn in the background.
The magpies turn up when they see the roos feeding, cos they know they can pinch the odd bit of roo food if they are quick, it is rather amusing to see roos chasing magpies away from the grub.  One young magpie, Teeny, knows the best way to get attention.  See her there on the right?  She sits at the window, knowing full well that Neo is on the other side of the glass, taunting him mercilessly.  Neo doesn't quite know what to do, he lashes his tail, makes little chirrupy noises and doesn't quite know whether to be brave or not.  After a while Teeny will call me in her magpie speak, demanding her breakfast oats.  I am at the mercy of cute wildlife....
Neo, when he's not at the window watching the fun outside, has developed a fascination with paper.  I keep finding chewed bits of newspaper and pamphlets around the house, and the best new thing to do is watch paper coming out of the printer, grabbing it in one's teeth and nicking off with it.
The most exciting thing that has happened was yesterday, when I said goodbye to my gorgeous little yellow Hyundai Getz and said hello to its big sister, a beautiful shiny red Hyundai I30. 
It's a bigger car with a 1.8 engine, a trillion airbags, cruise control (which I've never had and I already love!) and more power for chugging up and down the hills.  It will bit a lot more comfortable on long drives.  Look at how freaking shiny it is!  I suspect that wont last :-)  I am currently reading the manual which is the size of an encyclopaedia, working out what all the little buttons and doodads do.
We bought one last fruit tree before we swapped cars.  A Coe's Golden Drop plum.  We've gone for three European plums, the Coe, a Greengage and an Italian Sugar Plum...possibly a D'Agen.  All old fashioned, oval shaped plums, with high sugar content and great flavour and good for preserving.  Looking forward to those.   Looking forward to all the fruit actually, I dream of wandering through the orchard, pulling lunch straight off the trees.  Luvly.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fruit, Fruit And More Fruit!

There has been a flurry of activity in the orchard.  Once the tedious part of building the fence was complete, we started the fun part of buying the trees.  Then Steve collected 3 trailer loads of yummy soil mix, and with that plus a heap of cow manure, he dug enormous holes to fill with rich soil to give the trees a great start.
Planted are:  Bramley, Cox's Orange Pippin, Granny Smith, Red Fuji and Sundowner apples, Goldmine and Flavortop nectarines, Angel and O'Henry peaches, Newcastle apricot, Italian Sugar Plum and Greengage plum, Fuyu persimmon, Feijoa, Bartlett pear, Stella cherry, R2E2 and Kensington Pride mango, Hass avocado, Franquette walnut and an almond.  We also have 3 hazelnuts that we'll plant as a hedge up near the house, in front of the car.  It looks so nice to see trees in the orchard now, small as they are.  This spring should be nice, when we see some new growth and a small amount of blossom, followed hopefully by the excitement of a teeny weeny amount of fruit. 

So with all this lot plus the existing mulberry, fig, lemon, lime, mandarin and orange trees, I think we've covered most of the fruit in existence!  We've chosen varieties pretty carefully, considering chill factor - we are in a low-medium chill area as we don't have frosts, and when we've planted more than one variety of a fruit, tried to choose ones that fruit at slightly different times, to try and avoid being inundated with fruit all in the same few weeks!
 
The breakfast club continues to visit every morning at dawn.  I know they are there because Neo sits at the window watching them, I think he thinks they are big cats.  The big girl at the front, who we have named Patience, cos she is always the first one here, pre-dawn, waiting patiently for her scoop of roo food, has a big joey still in the pouch.  It's lovely to see the little one with its head poking out solemnly watching us.
Every year our embroidery group toodles off for a day workshop called Stitches By The Sea.  Each year it is hosted by either our group - South Coast Embroiderers day group, or the night group or the Denmark group.  This year it was the night group's turn, and considering there is only seven members, they put on a great day with a fun project, a great turnout of about 40 people, and lots of yummy food made by the group.  The project was "Chicken Scratch Embroidery", there are varying theories as to why it is called this and also other names such as Depression Lace, but basically it is simple stitching on gingham to make it appear as if it is lace.  It was good fun!
Speaking of embroidery, we gather every Tuesday at a hall in a suburb of Albany called Little Grove, which is on the other side of Princess Royal Harbour to the main township of Albany.  I always admire the view across the water and finally remembered to bring my camera to embroidery and take a couple of photos.  This photo is looking over to Albany town, which is nestled in between Mount Melville on the left, and Mount Clarence on the right.  Pretty isn't it.
The other view on arrival at sewing that I always like is this little rowboat, sitting alone in a calm expanse of water.
I've been doing a bit of sewing at home too.  I made my mother-in-law, who sadly has advanced Alzheimers and is in a nursing home, a 'sensory quilt'.  Barbara likes to touch little things and I wanted to make something that she would enjoy looking at and touching.  It's a small lap quilt with a fur edge on two sides, and the letters in her name appliqued in different fabrics, both in colours and textures.  I've added the different texture of some crochet, stitched on so there are little tunnels to wiggle fingers in, a tassel with a shiny ribbon, hanging beads, buttons and bells, braid, a fabric flower, all on a background fabric of pictures of hats.  I hope it gives her some pleasure.
The pusscat, shown here in mid psycho mode (the foofed forward whiskers are a clue) is no longer the little wee kitty I brought home nearly 3 months ago.  He weighed 2.5 kilos as a four month old baby, but today he tipped the scales at a chubbalub 4.8 kilos.  He thunders around the place at the speed of light so it doesn't slow him down one bit!
The water crisis is past.  We have having regular drizzle and our tanks are both a quarter full now, thank goodness.  Lots of rain forecast this week so we are hoping for some heavy falls which up to now haven't eventuated.  The last couple of mornings we've had a eerie, heavy mist descend on us for an hour or so.
 
 More splendid autumn sunsets, wonderful.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Silent Protest

Right, take two.  I just experienced the joy of writing this entire blog entry, was adding the title to finish up, then accidentally deleted the whole bloody thing!  I may be slightly less verbose in the re-write ha ha.

We've just returned from a wander around the twice-yearly Torbay Market.  Set on a lovely country road amongst huge trees, the grounds of Torbay Hall fill with small stalls, the smell of hotdogs fills the air, and gentle sounds of music filters down the roadway.  I came home with a bag of quinces, quince paste making is on my agenda for next week, yum!  I have one small piece left of last year's batch so that worked out rather well.

Our lovely neighbour has been giving us bags of apples from her trees, so I pulled out my nifty apple corer/slicer/peeler, the best little invention in the world, and started preparing apples.
Cupfuls of stewed apples for the freezer, and a slow cooker filled to the brim of apples, sugar and cinnamon for a batch of apple butter.  There is no actual butter in apple butter, but after slow cooking it for 15 hours, in which time it turns a lovely rich brown, it thickens up beautifully and when blitzed at the end of cooking, the texture changes to a silky smooth thick sauce, which is especially excellent when eaten with Greek yogurt. 
I gathered up the last of the pumpkins.  We didn't grow as many this year and they were mostly rather small, due I presume to the drought conditions.  This one amused me, it has grown through the fence and the wire is somewhere deep within.  I'll need an axe to get this one!
The cabbage, broccolini, rocket, lettuce and silverbeet are growing like the clappers, exploding with leaves.  The chooks are very happy, I pull off any chewed leaves or one at the bottom that are touching the ground (to try and discourage bugs from climbing on them and then up the plant), and throw those leaves into their yard where they gobble them up quick smart!
 I had a lovely surprise when collecting our mail last week, beautiful drawings from our granddaughters.  Wonderful, thank you Stevie and Riley :-)
We have started using our wood heater as it is getting chilly late in the afternoon, so Steve has been filling the wood basket regularly.  Neo thinks this is sensational fun.  He spends a lot of time climbing over the wood, gnawing at the ends, then playing with all the bits of wood he has chewed off, the house is littered with it!  I think the little lad is teething, what better than gnawing on branches to keep those pearly whites strong and healthy.  In this photo he is in the process of dragging a somewhat larger piece right out of the basket, he was unimpressed when I took it off him.  :-)
When Neo is not eating tree trunks, or doing his psycho kitty tearing around the house, you will find him here.
Steve has been a busy busy lad the last few weeks, building the fence for our planned orchard.  It's quite big, about 15 metres by 20 metres, so he had many poles to dig into the ground.  Then he added pole toppers around the whole perimeter, nothing better than a solid topped fence to lean on and contemplate the world.  Then he strung a line of wire top and bottom, then attached the (apparently) rabbit-proof wire all the way around with a trillion nails and clips, and buried it a few inches under the ground all the way around, to hopefully stop anything from digging its way in.  Steve is making the gates himself, which saves us a fortune, he has already made a small gate on one side, all that is left to do now is for him to make the double gate on the other side, big enough for us to get Helga in to mow.
It looks good don't you think.  The broomsticks are where we have marked out for our trees.  We have room for 20 fruit trees plus an area for berries.  See that lovely, lush, green grass, that's where our leach drains run across the entire orchard.  We are not planting trees over the drains, instead leaving an open area in the orchard which will be handy for driving through.  We are mostly planting downhill from the drains, so the trees will get the benefit of any extra water that drains down the hill.
See those roos there?  This is what Steve calls "The Silent Protest".  The roos love eating that lush grass that grows over the leach drains.  Which of course is now within the orchard fence.  About six roos spent the days lying down, mournfully watching Steve complete the fence, putting that lovely grass out of reach.  Roos have ways of getting their revenge though.
This out-of-pouch joey wasn't too fussed, he lay stretched out on the grass for hours while his mum looked on sleepily.
We laughed at this enterprising willy wagtail, who took advantage of a ride on the back of this roo, who got up to feed.  The wagtail kept darting down near the roo's mouth, catching small insects disturbed by the roo's feeding.
I mentioned The Revenge Of The Roos.  This is what greeted us this morning, right outside our bedroom window.  I never knew camellia plants tasted nice, apparently they do!
We may live to regret the fact that we started putting out roo food near the house in late summer, mainly for the old female Lucy who was starving and bony.  She is now nicely rounded and happy, good. Word has got around about the free food however, and three mum roos with their joeys in tow visit regularly.  There are growls and huffs from whichever one has claimed the bowl, so the others have to wait.  Up to now they just ate grass while they waited, but they have finally spied my little group of pot plants and decided that this needs to be investigated!  Love the roos we do.  Will have to move my plants.  :-)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Seeing Special People

Lots of stuff happening around here over the last few weeks.  We caught up with good friends over Easter, then on Easter Monday Michelle arrived for a four day stay, lovely!  The chickens made a new friend, with Anne being Michelle's special favourite, because she consented to sitting on Michelle's lap being stroked.
Neo, on the other hand, decided he was going to hide for the majority of Michelle's stay.  Silly boy.  He did show himself on the last day and allowed those that revere him to give him strokes.  Speaking of the gorgeous boy, I did some sewing for him, now he has some cute pentagon patchwork balls to play with.
Neo is very fond of watching the magpies through the window, and the other day he was crouched behind the sliding door when one of the juvenile magpies, Ginger is her name, wandered up close to the glass.  She spied Neo, but instead of being scared, cocked her head and looked curiously at him.  I wonder if she has ever seen a cat before?  Then Ginger spent a few minutes tormeting Neo through the glass, darting up to it then leaping back, going past the door out of sight then jumping in front of it again, highly amused I think at Neo's reaction, who was out of his mind with excitement and couldn't quite believe what was happening in front of him!
Now the rain is beginning to fall a little more frequently, planted things are starting to make a move.  This is one of the beds that I've sown a load of seeds in, nothing up yet but I really liked the stripes of colours in the photo, so, enjoy, a photo of an empty seed bed ha ha.
The broccolini and cabbage plants are growing like the clappers.
 The seeds I've sown in punnets and pots have all germinated quickly and seem to be growing well. 
 I sowed a row of turnip seeds around the edge of one of the potato beds and they have sprung up out of nowhere.  I think I was a tad heavy handed with the number of seeds, lots of thinning out to do!
 I was thrilled to see a red robin again, they disappear over the summer.  They are such showoffs, which is great as they are happy to stand proud and still whilst photos are being taken.  :-)
There are battles outside our bedroom window where the roo food bowl is.  This is the new girl at the bowl, she is a big female with a very cute little joey.  If she is there and one of the others turns up for a feed, she huffs and growls at them, doesn't like sharing this one!
After Easter I choofed off up to Perth to visit family.  First night was good fun at Paul's house with my two favourite little girls.  Here is Paul busily putting together a shelving unit for his bedroom, your house is looking great Paulie, well done.  Was great to see you all  :-)  xx
And here is Riley showing us her new necklace she chose that Grandma Dy bought her, a gold tiger!
And here is Stevie showing us the new hair accessory she chose, that Grandma Dy bought her.  It looks very pretty!
Then it was on to mum and dad's house for a few days where we had a good time catching up.  Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of you both!  Then a visit to more good friends then home to green pastures.

Dust Bath Time

Chickens are weirdos.  I was in the vegie patch when I heard these funny little noises coming from the chook yard.  Here are most of the girls doing their thing in the dirt, dust bath time.  They look like they are dying if you ask me, but I think they are actually in ecstacy!  It amazes me how they roll around in the dirt, rubbing it all over themselves, getting absolutely filthy, then get up and have a good shake off and apparently feel on top of the world!

I was intending to do my usual long blog post, rather late too, sorry, but the whole thing has had a hissy fit with putting this video on, so I shall cut my losses and publish this one, and do another later.
video