Saturday, November 29, 2014

Don't Poke Your Tongue Out At Me!

This November has been so different from last year.  There was no November rain last year and it was as dry as dry, whereas this year we have had steady, regular amount of rain all month, about 65mm in total.  Which is great, I've had to do very little hand watering, the water tanks are almost full and it still looks nice and green.  The only bad side is that garlic and onions don't like being wet just before harvesting, they tend to reshoot and go soggy and begin to rot.  Hence I had to do a quick harvest day inbetween showers.  Everything is hauled out of the ground and left on the surface to dry out, except that it kept raining!  So after a day I put it all into the wheelbarrow and brought it all under cover to try and dry out.
I am pleased with the garlic, I only planted about 60 this year but they grew fairly well with quite a few good sized globes.  Last year we grew more but they were very small.  It doesn't matter though, the point is to provide us with our garlic eating needs for as close to a year as possible.  Last week I threw away last year's garlic braid with only the last few fossilised globes still hanging off it.
This is the haul of garlic, shallots and red onions.  I also grew some really nice white onions but I've used all those for caramelised onion chutney, yum!  Oddly the only onions I planted that failed completely, right at the start, were the brown onions.  Not a one grew, go figure, you'd think they would be the tough boys of the onion family.
Don't the braids look pretty!  I've got them hanging up on the coat rack outside the front door to try and dry them out more.  I'm a bit worried about the shallots, they were quite damp and some were rather squelchy.  I've tossed any soft ones away and hopefully these ones will dry out and not rot.
The other exciting harvest was globe artichokes!  Just the three but still very pleasing.  I can officially announce that they were delicious, boiled and served with a little bowl of melted butter/salt/lemon juice to dip the leaf ends in, then the delicious finale of spooning out the luscious artichoke heart, mmmmm!
 We have had to take quick action to save any tiny fruits on our tiny fruit trees.  I mentioned last blog about those &%$#@ 28s, the green parrots.  Far out, why can't they just politely take one fruit and eat it.  No, the little hoodlums pull them all off just for the fun of it, and break off tiny branches just for the hell of it too.  I saw red when I saw a parrot quite deliberately biting the flowers off my Feijoa, just for fun grrrrr! So it was off to the shop to buy mega amounts of bird netting.
This year the trees are tiny and most of them will have no fruit, but we have a few precious apples that we'd like to save, so now they are under Fort Knox!  Up yer bums parrots! :-)
The back garden is coming along nicely.  Steve thought he would get a break when he finished building the terraced garden bed walls.  Hmmm, no darling, you were wrong.  We have had a temporary fence around the back garden for quite a while now, just chook wire and star pickets.  The roos have respected this.  Until now.  Can you see that kangaroo bum in the centre of the photo?  That is Patience, the old female who waits patiently out the front every morning for her couple of handfuls of breakfast.  Except now she has decided that she would like to live in the back garden and eat all my plants.  About half a dozen times a day and night I'd look out to see her in there.  It was a careful job to remove her too, not wanting to panic her.  If you'd been here in the dead of many a night you'd have seen me out the back in my nightie, with a torch, herding her quietly towards the open gate.  Far out. 
 So Steve has had to pick up his downed tools, and start on the permanent fence around the back garden.  He is going great guns too, one side and almost the back done.  He builds beautiful fences, he uses pine poles as uprights and also as fence toppers with a sturdy wire mesh to keep things out.  It's pretty high and rather formidable looking to a kangaroo I should think, Patience hasn't been seen in there for over a week now so crossing fingers!
 It's all starting to grow out the back and looking rather nice.  It is sunny in the mornings then shady in the afternoon which makes it a lovely place to sit after a hard morning's work.  I don't usually park my car there, nor are those two gates remaining there, but that is the side of the temporary fence, so the car and gates are the barriers to persuade Patience to stay out until Steve finishes the proper fence.
These are the steps from the back door up to the clothes line and back part of the garden.  I really like how they look, and the growing plants are softening the lines of the timbers.  He's a clever boy that husband of mine :-)
This is the side of the house from the front looking to the back.  I love how my yellow pokers are flowering right behind our Easter Island head, makes him look like he has a headdress.  :-)
We had a visitor up near the back door, he scared the crap out of me actually.  A beautiful blue-tongued lizard was hiding behind one of my pot plants.  PS - got the name wrong, it is a Bobtail, or Shingleback, the scary blue tongue mesmerised me :-)
 He wasn't particularly conversational.  And was not very appreciative when Steve gently got him onto a spade and released him back into the bush.  Their gnarled, multicoloured skin is somewhat reminiscent to a dinosaur in my eyes.
Speaking of eyes, we both went and had long overdue eye checks.  Steve just needed the next strength up of his readers, but my eyes have gone to crap.  So, I've had to take the step up to multifocals.  It takes a while to get used to them I've discovered, but I think they way the glass just knows when it's sunny and turns dark is way cool!
 I finally finished the quilt for my father-in-law for Christmas.  I hope it brightens up his nursing home bed.
 Do you remember the excellent wooden book statue Steve made me a year or so ago?  This is a current photo of it.  It sits out in all weather and we were interested to see how it went.  I love it, it is cracking, has spider webs and algae on it and is ageing beautifully.  It has become incredibly interesting and I love seeing it every morning when I visit the chook yard.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Strawberry Delights

November is a busy month, the seasons are changing and the weather is starting to warm up.  As there is still some moisture in the earth, grass and weeds explode out of the ground at a phenomenal rate.  Much mowing is happening, farmers are cutting hay, bush flies abound, and everyone is tidying up ready for the fire season.

With the warming soil also comes the growth of things we like, amongst those are strawberries!  We have been eating strawberries every day for the past three weeks without having to buy any of them.  Yum, nothing better than a sunkissed strawberry. 
 I am probably picking a punnet every other day.  Production tailed off for a bit but I mulched the plants with used straw from the chook yard, and since then the plants have gone bonkers with growth, nothing like a bit of old chook poo to zazz up your plants!  I've been getting a few blueberries too, I have three plants in pots that are waiting to go into the ground, one has been in a big pot for five years now and is an old reliable.  Well, it was until yesterday when the bloody parrots found them!
The new orchard trees are growing well, all 30 fruit trees we have planted are happy except one, a Kensington Pride mango that had a hissy fit, started rotting from the top of the stem down, and looked like crap.  I've pulled it out of the ground and put it in a pot, and cut the rotted top off.  We'll see if it recovers.
This is an O'Henry peach.  How exciting!  The little tree had about a dozen fruit on it.  We did wonder if this was too many for  tiny tree and should we cull some.  The decision was taken out of the our hands a couple of days ago when the BLOODY parrots pulled half of them off!  Perhaps the tree will be happier with only six fruit, Steve has hurriedly bunged a bit of wire around the tree.  We did have a few nectarines but they too have been pillaged.  This is why everyone down here nets their orchards!  We will be doing this eventually too!
One tree the parrots don't seem interested in is the olive.  This olive has stubbornly refused to flower for the last two seasons, but this year, wow, it is dripping with tiny olives.  The photo I took of this on an earlier blog, that I thought were olives, were in fact flower buds and I was really worried that they would all fall off and not set fruit, but, can you see those tiny, round, bright green things - they are indeed olives - yahoo! :-)
Speaking of mega growth, you should see the size of the flowers on my elder shrubs, they are massive, the size of beach balls!  The last two years the elders have struggled to establish themselves, drying out readily and only produced a few small flower heads.  They have obviously got their roots down into some good stuff as they are bigger than me now.  It is time I thought about making a batch of rhubarb and elderflower champers.
Steve is happy.  These are healthy and happy and strongly growing scarlet runner bean plants.  This is first time Steve has grown any that look so healthy.  They never grew in Perth, it's too hot, he managed to grow a few last year, but they were pitiful looking plants, struggling to stay alive.  This is obviously a good spot for them.  They have beautiful scarlet flowers on them.
The chookie girlies are going well, although I do have a poorly one, Angelina, at the moment.  She has a runny tummy and is rather quiet.  I hope she has just eaten something that has disagreed with her and she recovers.  They are enjoying the access to the finished winter vegie garden, they love pecking the leaves off the old brussels sprouts plants, eating beetroot leaves of the last remaining, too woody to use, beetroot.  Purple kale gets a trim from them too.  In this photo they are happy with what I've just done - I had given them their breakfast earlier - laying pellets/oats/wheat/bread scraps, and instead of just moistening it with water, I mixed in two raw eggs (one hen has been laying some very thin shelled eggs and I cracked a couple, so decided to give them back to them).  When I came back to their yard after a few hours, not much of their food had been eaten, which was odd.  On closer inspection it had all set like concrete because of the egg in it!  After I busted it up for them they contentedly pecked away.
And here is sir, reclining like a centrefold.  He has taken to wanting his breakfast at about 4am, but gives his message subtly.  That involved walking up and down my sleeping body, walking back and forth along the bedhead, sitting on each of our bedside tables casually knocking things on the floor with deliberate precision, waiting for the desired reaction.

 Yes Neo, you may laugh, you evil fiend you....
He has the strangest eyes, he has an arc of an orangy/brown colour under each pupil that only appears when his pupils are tiny.  Do other cats have this too I wonder?  I have to finish this blog now, he is bored and is walking back and forth between me and the keyboard, with his arse in my face.  Message received sir!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Embroidery

Well, the Albany Agricultural Show has been and gone.  We really enjoy it, after battling the Perth Royal Show over the years, which, frankly, was a nightmare with parking, crowds, heat and cost, we find our local show just lovely.  And where else can you be, sitting on a haybale watching the bull judging, listening with interest to the judges commentary, to hear, loudly and proudly over the loudspeaker, that it was very close between these three bulls but this one will win the rosette because of his splendid testicles.  :-)

I helped out in Embroidery in the Craft section again, it's hard work and a long day, but good fun and very interesting to watch the judging.  This is Thursday morning, the day before the show.  We are receiving entries at this time of the day, carefully marking everything off so we know what is what and where is where.  After that it is the judging so we have to make sure everything is in its correct class, bring each class to the judges then make sure we have recorded correctly the placegetters.  Then we amass all the first place winners in each class for the judges to decide the Best In Show piece and runner up.  Then we take all the paperwork to the office where they pop it all into the computer and spit out place certificates.  That part takes hours as the office is inundated with paperwork from many different areas.
While we wait for the placing certificates, we work on the big muddled heap of entries, turning it into a respectable display for the public the following day.  Then the certificates come back and we have to carefully place them on the correct entries - that can be a tad stressful, because we have scattered entries around the display they aren't so easy to find to put the certificates with.  But it all got done in the end.  I was pleased, my blackwork sampler, at the back there, got a second place.
The lion's head in the middle back, was the Best In Show for Embroidery.  The judges were very taken with the amount of work and the perfect tension in the stitching.  And guess what, it was stitched by a bloke!
There were lots of beautiful pieces of work, all representing someone's efforts and tastes.  I hope visitors to the show were interested.  Sadly, visitors cannot get this close as the last thing that happens is a big fence goes up around all the exhibits, to stop stuff from being pinched. 
 This was the Best In Show for Crochet.
And the star shaped piece on yellow card was Best In Show for Lace Making.  And that little green lace worm at the front, sorry it's not very clear in the photo, won first prize in the Children's section.  It was made by a 7 year old girl, isn't she clever.
Now I have finished my blackwork I had to decide what to do next.  I love high relief and textured embroidery so I am having a go at Casalguidi.  My intent is to make my little scene like a piece of forest floor.  First thing to do was a little background of four sided stitch.  I love it, it creates cool little holes in the fabric without distorting the shape.  Next is the beginning of the casalguidi worm thing.  You tie down a heap of threads in the shape you want, then satin stitch over the entire thing to secure it and make it firm.
 Then you stitch 'foundation bars' loosely over the top of the satin stitch.
 Then you weave many many lines of stem stitch through the foundation bars with a tapestry needle. 
And it turns into this cool, lovely to stroke, worm thing!  That is going to be my 'fallen log' on the forest floor.  I have plans for tendrils, leaves and a toadstool, I have an image in my head of what I want it to look like.  It will be fun!