Friday, October 31, 2014

ANZAC Pride

We are feeling very proud at the moment, for all service men and women who have fought for our country, and Albany this weekend is the site for the 100 year commemoration for the leaving of the troops from Australian soil on 1st November 1914.  Albany was the last place those soldiers saw as they sailed away to WW1.  We are also bursting with pride for Albany itself, the planning for such an occasion has been years in the making, and our town has done itself proud for such a logistically challenging event.  And the weather, wow, it could not be more perfect for the weekend.

The official march and ceremonies are on today, and we are at home watching the fantastic coverage on the ABC.  But people who know us will be amazed to find out that we actually went into Albany last night, with lots and lots of people!  We are not crowd people and normally avoid anything busy like the plague, but we wanted to share in this event and personally experience the effort and work that has gone into it. 

It has been organised so very very well.  We utilised the 'Park and Ride' set up, as many roads in town were closed, parking our car on the outskirts of town and using the buses that have come down from Perth especially for this.  It went like clockwork.  Brilliant.  We walked into the ANZAC Peace Park at the bottom of town, where all around are huge screens and speakers so no matter where you are you can see what is going on.  Loads of historical film and photos and commentary telling stories continued on the screen, plus official events as they are actually happening here.

Crowds gathering at the ANZAC Peace Park, with the Albany Entertainment Centre in the background.  Later that night there were photos and film with story telling projected onto the sides of the building.
 
We came into town for the Royal Australian Navy Ceremonial Sunset.  Our Albany sunset did not disappoint, it was absolutely perfect.  Perfect.  And even with the huge crowds, we could see the detail of the ceremony on the big screens.  The National Anthem was sung by all with gusto and pride.
 Cadets marching down towards the Peace Park.
Stirling Terrace, a street along the bottom of town, has been a hive of activity all year.  It has been paved and beautified, and over this weekend it has been turned into a massive mess tent and smaller stalls, for people to wander through, soak in the atmosphere, admire memorabilia, and get something to eat.  I did wonder how the many thousands and thousands of visiting people were going to be fed, and I thought the idea of a giant mess tent was terrific.  There was plenty of choice of food, and we lined up for our serve of Albany sardines and chips, marveling in the smooth running of it considering the crowds, and declared our dinner very yummy.
It was great wandering through the stalls, and I loved how a number of people were wearing period costume and uniform, it was very atmospheric. 
 Field surgical kit.


As night fell, York Street, the main street of Albany, lit up, and the myriads of people wandered around taking it all in.  Everybody was cheerful, everything flowed smoothly, it was great.
 Cool street art.
 As we left to head home we were shocked to see the massive queues for the bus back to the Park and Ride, but we needn't have worried, the buses turned up one after the other, and the queue dissolved in ten minutes.  Squished like sardines in the buses didn't dampen anybody's spirits and we all were cheerfully returned to our cars.
It was a good night, we were really glad we made the effort to attend.  After this weekend is over we are looking forward to visiting The National ANZAC Centre, which provides an interpretive experience and sounds fantastic.

Well done Albany.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Earth Reveals Its Secrets

We had a ripper electrical storm all through the night last Wednesday, thunder and lightning and rain for hours and hours, it was quite spectacular.  We expected Neo to be terrified, but no, he was rather fascinated and sat in the window to watch the light show.  As is to be expected on these occasions, our power went out, about 11pm, along with most of rural Albany. Our little area must have been in the too hard basket as we were, I believe, the last area to get their power back, some 15 hours later. 

That was fine, we coped.  The biggest issue is that we cannot use any water in the house, as our water is pumped from the tank, so no power, no pump!  We went and filled buckets from a gravity tap on the shed tank for flushing the loo, and I had already been a clever girl and filled up the kettle.  All seemed fine, power came back on, everything seemed to be working, great, go to bed on Thursday all at peace with the world.  Until Friday morning and I discovered our fridge/freezer, was under the cloud of "the lights are on but nobody is home" - the damn thing was lit up like a Xmas tree but something very bad had happened to its innards, and we were left with a soggy, warm mess.  You know the drill, sit on the phone and chat to the insurance company, then ring the technician to come and do a report, but he is busy and can't come out til some time next week.  sigh 

Here is the Office Manager assisting with the printing of documents for said insurance company.
So, that was the start of Friday, caput fridge/freezer.  But we were also a bit excited as that was the day the drilling team arrived to try and drill us a bore.  We knew there was a risk he would hit granite and it could get expensive, but what we didn't count on was him hitting 'fractured granite' about 5 metres down in one site, and three metres down in another.  He cannot drill through fractured granite, chunks of it simply revolve down there in the earth along with the drill head.  So, in other words, it was a complete and utter, expensive, waste of time, no bore for us.  Phooey.  So, I put myself to bed for the afternoon and sulked.
On to more cheerful things, see this photo?  It may not look very exciting, but believe me, Steve is very excited.  This is the FINISH of the retaining walls construction!  Yay Steve, poor love, he is so over it. :-)  100 treated pine sleepers later, along with many bags of cement and many nuts and bolts, it is done.  He has popped into town today with the trailer for the last load of soil mix to top it up, then he needs to cut out the grass right alongside the end of the wall so he can put the crushed limestone there, for a path alongside.  We have done that at each end to try (hah!) and maintain a barrier between the kikuyu grass and the garden beds.  At least I will notice when those creeping runners start slinking along towards my precious garden beds.  Now I have to get on with more planting in these spiffy, vacant, garden beds. :-)
The plants that I planted about a month ago at the other end of the retaining walls are growing nicely.  A few flowers are showing themselves.  This one is a pretty Hebe
This is a mystery plant, a cutting from one of the embroidery ladies.  If anyone knows what it is I'd appreciate a comment, ta muchly.  It has tiny little cigar type flowers and it quite a small plant I believe.
 My walled garden at the front is a blaze of colour at present.  I had a lovely time collecting a big bunch of flowers for the house.  Then of course to decide where to put the vase due to a certain furry vandal who is known for quite deliberately knocking things over.  So, they are in the bathroom, where he can't get at them.  Nice to look at when sitting on the loo ha ha ha
This is the old girl Lucy and we are getting first sightings of the head of her tiny new joey.  So cute.  It will be a while before that one starting coming out of the pouch for tiny little practice hops, at least a month I should think.
Meanwhile, on the embroidery front, I have finally finished the Blackwork Sampler I've been working on this year.  I sourced a heap of Elizabethan patterns then put together the bits I liked.
I'm on a roll.  Every Xmas for embroidery we all make something and someone else gets it.  This year we were all given an outline of a flower with some leaves and hearts, with the instruction that we could muck around with the pattern as much as we liked, changing the size, skewing it, removing bits, whatever, then making it into a little something.  So, as I was on a blackwork trend, that was the type of embroidery I chose to do, I left the flower as is, but removed most of the leaves and hearts.  Then I made it into a little zip purse thingy.  I quite like it, I hope its recipient does too!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hey True Blue

I am convinced that grass and weeds can put on six inches overnight, the growth factors of everything is quite astounding at the moment.  Thankfully the good stuff is growing too, the shrubs, vegies and fruit trees are all looking happy flush with new leaves and flowers.  But boy are we busy keeping up with the mowing and the weeding!  I mowed the orchard the other day.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned before about my obsession with getting as close to edges as I can, you know, to get every last blade of grass.  You may ask why I have photographed Helga?
 There is a bit of red evidence there on the grass.  That red thing alongside Helga is an old carpet, I use them to smother weeds and grass.  I wanted a pristine cut edge right up against the carpet.  Alas I overdid it just a touch.
 Next minute Helga gobbled up and sucked in a great mass of carpet.  She spat out as much as she could, then proceeded to seize up completely as her underparts were strangled by carpet fibres.  I had to call my darling handyman to save the day for me.... :-)
I harvested the celery and most of the beetroot yesterday.  Silly me left the celery in just a bit too long so I wasted a bit as it had deteriorated.  It's never quite so bad with wastage around here though as something will make use of it.  First port of call is the chooks, but they choose to dislike celery, fussy buggers.  Second choice is the worm farm and then if there is still stuff left over then it goes into the compost heap.  Very little actually goes into the bin.  Anyway, the celery is all chopped, blanched and frozen for soup and casseroles, and the beetroot is cooked, sliced and in jars with spiced vinegar.  Goodo.
Some of the celery is in the fridge for one of our favourite treats, chunder buns!  Grated cheese mixed with chopped celery and moistened with tomato sauce, then grilled on buns or toast.  Delicious!
 The plants out the back are settling in and putting on new growth.  Although all the spaces are irritating me, I am trying not to overplant, as it my usual habit.  I am however popping in seeds of a few vegies and herbs, annual things to make use of the good soil mix that I will be watering regularly over the summer.  I've planted cucumber seeds along the front edge in the hope they will grow and hang down over the retaining wall.
It's taking shape.  What is terrific is that when the sun hits the front verandah, the shade hits out here.  So there will always be somewhere shady to sit and read a book around the house.  We really must paint that door, it's meant to be deep Manor Red, not undercoat turquoise!
The Scarlet Robins are out and about, they watch Steve's construction with interest from right up the back.  I will be thrilled the day I see one fossicking around in the new plants near the house.  They are great to photograph, being so damn proud of their beautiful selves, they will pose motionless, puffing their lovely red chests out, for that perfect shot.
Lord Neo on the other hand, is not that easy to snap as he is usually charging round the house at the speed of light.  He has taken to night time marauding of places he is not allowed, such as the breakfast bar.  I know this due to evidence left, usually involving the chewing up of pieces of paper into a trillion pieces.  During the day we have a compromise, he can sit on the bar stool and watch my kitchen proceedings, but not one paw is to touch the bench top.  Of course we like to irritate our mother by deliberately putting one paw on the benchtop, then sit back and wait for the response.  He is a baaaad boy!
We finished the tuna after five days of eating it every which way.  God it was good, so yummy.  This was the final hoorah, sushi!  Happily though, there are a couple of packs in the freezer to look forward to.
 And stone the crows, we actually went out at night!  First time since we lived here I think!  Thank you dad for the gift of tickets to see John Williamson.  He played at the Albany Entertainment Centre, a place we've been meaning to visit but not got around to.  It's a lovely building, sort of like a mini opera house, nice intimate seating of just over 600 and has great acoustics.  It was a good night, a cheerful, relaxed performance that made us feel proud to be Australian.  John has the oldest accompanying guitarist I've ever seen.  Col is his name and he plays a mean bit of slide guitar.  We've both been humming Hey True Blue ever since, although I keep laughing to myself about his song about the Family Cat who was a bit upset, cos they left his balls at the Family Vet.....

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tuna!

This is what I look at out my bedroom window when I wake up in the morning, it's the tops of the small trees in my fenced garden down in front of the house.  The white flowering tree is a jarrah, absolutely stuffed full of bees at present.  The smaller tree in front with the red new foliage is my precious red flowering gum.  It hasn't flowered yet, having struggled to grow over the three years it's been in the ground.  It tries very hard to rip itself out of the ground with every windstorm, and then tries equally hard to ringbark itself with the ties we have staked it with.  This year however, we have changed its stake to an enormous star picket, and tied it with soft, thick rope and slowly it is settling down and putting on some growth.  I always had this vision in my head, of us being able to see the flowering tops of those trees from the house, and I have my fingers crossed that maybe the red flowering gum with give us a few flowers this year.
 We have lots of broad beans growing at present and I've been experimenting with trying to reproduce some dry, slow roasted broad beans I found at the shops recently.  They are delicious, like a crunchy snack food alongside peanuts and crisps.  You wouldn't know they were broad beans just by eating them.  Anyway, I am trying to do my own.  It's a laborious process.  First pick the beans.  Then shell the beans.  Then steam the beans.  Then skin the beans.  The first recipe I found suggested I make a mix of flour, oil and spices and stir the beans into that, then spread on baking sheets and put in the oven for 40 minutes.  Meh, they weren't crunchy and the floury stuff coating them wasn't that special.  Second try the other day and after the prep, I tossed them in oil, salt and garlic then popped them in the oven.
 Hmmm.  Well, they were certainly crunchy!!  They were also charcoaled, darn it.  We nibbled the odd non-black one, they tasted fine, but the whole lot was chucked out.  What a waste of two hours!  However, I live and learn, and the next batch I will roast at a much lower oven temperature, despite what the recipe said.  Third time lucky maybe! :-)
 After a hiatus, work continues with the retaining walls along the back of the house.  Steve is pleased the end is in sight, it's been a big job.  The plants I put in a few weeks ago are starting to show signs of healthy growth so that's a relief.  I'm looking forward to planting the second, higher level, directly behind the back of the wooden planks, it will fill it out and eventually, in my head anyway, look brilliant and be a wonderful playground for small birds and lizards.  It's also great not to have masses of sand blowing around and heaping up outside the back door. 
The big news of the week is on the piscatorial front.  Steve and his mate Laurie went out in Laurie's boat for a fish in Two People's Bay, and Steve had the pleasure of crossing something off his fish bucket list.  A tuna!  No, TWO tuna!  This is the prize catch, this one weighs about five kilos.  He can hardly wipe the smile off his face, Steve that is, the fish looks less than impressed. :-)
Here he is with both his tuna.  They also caught a nice load of Orange Wrass, a Pike and a Breaksea Cod, all lovely to eat.  Neo is beside himself with joy, he loves fresh fish!
 This was our dinner last night, tuna steak with salad.  Oh_My_God it was sensational!
Yes Neo, I was talking about you.  Here he is giving me a head bopping as I walk past his toppathabookshelf hangout.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Defluffed

Last weekend we had the pleasure of the company of our dear friends Angie and Andy for a few days.  We had a relaxing weekend of catching up on news, supping delectable wines and eating splendid food.  Was great to see you! xx
In case you are wondering about the strange headgear Andy is wearing, that is merely my bendable, magnifying, sewing light standing behind the settee!
 We settled in on Saturday afternoon for the AFL Grand Final replay, what a shame it wasn't a close game, ended up rather boring to watch, mind you I don't think any of us really cared who won, considering the best team of all, the West Coast Eagles, wasn't in the final :-P
And all thoughts of football flew away when Steve brought out this delectable pavlova he made, yum!
 Oddly, when we have visitors, the roos often make themselves scarce, which is rather vexing after I tell everyone that we have loads of roos lying around all day long.  Fickle creatures.  This is the sight that usually awaits me in the morning.  They watch for when I open the curtains in the morning, then solemnly follow my every movement through the windows. 
 The Breakfast Club, usually about eight of the mums and bubs, enjoying their small piles of mixed grain and lucerne chaff.  I know we probably shouldn't feed them, but we do, but we make sure that it is only a small amount, not enough to make them reliant on us, they still have to pull their fingers out and eat our grass too! :-)  The two on the left are in the process of having a wee biffo over whose pile of food is better, dags.
 Remember I said we had a bonfire recently?  Well basically what's left is a huge ash bed surrounded by the remnants of the stubborn, half burned stumps.  We were very surprised to notice some days later, someone in the middle of all that.
 A couple of the roos have taken to spending some hours lying in the ash bed!  Fancy that.  We surmise that a) maybe it is soft and comfortable, b) it must be a nice secure place to lie surrounded by the stumps and c) maybe the alkalinity of the ash helps to rid them of any skin parasites they may have.  Interesting yes?
 Neo has settled back to his dominance of the house since his 10 hours of enduring being driven to Perth in a cat carrier.  Of note there are 11 missing ping pong balls somewhere in the house.  He is back to being very naughty early in the morning when he would like us awake and tending his needs.  So he walks over the top of everything in our bedroom, repeatedly, knocking things over, chewing things, all quite deliberately.  I had had enough of him at 5am the other morning so removed him from our room and shut the door.  He took vengeance by knocking down a lovely thank you card we had up on our bookshelf in the living room, and chewed it up into tiny pieces.
 I rarely get to sew alone,  he is well behaved for about five minutes then gets bored and starts fiddling with stuff.  Here he is basking in the late afternoon light, shedding fur all over my quilt.  Speaking of late afternoon light, it was really weird and eerie here a couple of days ago.  The afternoon sun was really golden, then red and the whole sky was this strange hazy reddish colour.
 And as for the shedding of fur, Neo is dropping fur like goodness knows what at the moment.  So this morning I got the fur stripper out, it's a rubber brush that is fantastic at stripping out the loose fur.  I get the impression it is like the agony and the ecstasy, as Neo rolls around purring his head off, but also digging claws in as if it is bordering on pain.  But he stays and lets me do it so I think it must feel pretty good.
 Look at that huge wad of fur that Neo doesn't have to swallow when he's grooming himself now.  We finish up with a wipe down with a damp cloth and he's a new man!
 And it's a Happy Happy Birthday today to my dear dad.  Happy Birthday Dad, love you! xx