Monday, 28 December 2015

Happy Holidays

We have visitors!  Lots of lovely visitors.  Michelle and Michael, and Paul and Sam are here and it's great. :-)
 Everyone dumped their Chrissy presents under the tree until it looked like a warzone.  Lovely :-)
 We all had fun swapping gifts with each other, I think everyone enjoyed watching others open their chosen present, we were all very lucky with a stash of lovely things.  We had a Facetime with mum and dad in Perth, it was great to see faces and say thank yous for presents.  This is my favourite present, a handy little bag from mum in the most glorious colour.  It's been out and about a few times already, thanks mum! xx
 We did some cruising around Albany, seeing the sights.  Here are Steve and Paul up near the National Anzac Centre, we went up there to admire the views so Sam could take some photos.
 Here's Michelle with some the glorious view behind her.
 And Sam, moi and Paul.  When did I become such a shortarse?
 We had a great lunch at Due South in Albany, then the next day we had another great lunch at good ol' Boston Brewery.  Lovely.  :-)  I say lovely a lot don't I, but it has been!
 Yesterday morning we hit the beach, it was perfect, a light breeze, nice and warm, and we chose a quiet area that we virtually had to ourselves.  Here are the girls soaking up some rays with the boys fishing in the background.
Here is beach babe me.  I must say that I had a lovely time swimming and behaving like a small child jumping through the waves and attempting to body surf.  Good fun.
 And look what Paul came home with, a giant flathead!  He pulled that in on the first cast, lucky thing.  He and Sam had it for breakfast this morning and declared it delicious!
Paul took Sam home today as the poor girl has to go back to work tomorrow, we loved having you here Sam! xx
Paul is coming back down tomorrow, this time with our granddaughters, so lots more fun awaits!  :-)

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Bodies In The Kitchen

We are coming to terms with our bore water, the components of it meaning that it is not good to wet the foliage of plants as they then suck up the minerals and then get upset with the excess ones.  We have to rethink a lot of our strategy and will need to water at ground level.  Eventually we will be putting in drip systems through the garden beds but for now we continue to use sprinklers to water and just do a rinse off with rainwater.  A little tedious but if it helps then its worth it.  But there are going to be some plants that just wont want to grow here, but on the other hand there will be others that I've not thought of that thrive in saline conditions, I have to move my mind towards plants that are happy to live near the coast.  It's all a learning curve!
Meanwhile, trying to drag myself away from the misery of looking at the plants that are unhappy, I am thrilled to see some wonderful things.  Those tiny green balls are mandarins!  You may not think much of that, but that little tree has stubbornly been on the brink of death for about 5 years, it was on its last hoorah this season and was threatened with being pulled out and replaced.  It must have heard me as it has started to green up, started to grow, and produce teeny fruit.  I will cross my fingers that they don't all fall off, but the fact it has even produced them is a bonus, there hasn't been a flower on it ever until now.  So yay!
This is one amazing plant, the banana passionfruit vine.  It has literally hundreds of young fruit on it and is thriving, with no signs of unhappiness with the water.  The passionfruit also has loads of fruit but the leaves are showing tiny signs of bore water damage so I will need to use more rainwater to keep that one happy.  So looking forward to ripening fruit!  Our sick peach dropped all its fruit but the other peach has a dozen or so fruit that are starting to swell up towards maturity, and the sick nectarine is recovering well after dropping half its fruit, the remainder starting to swell up, not far off ripening. 
 This is a naughty chicken.  The girls get to range all day in the orchard, and they love it, but this one has learned to jump the fence into my garden, and gleefully spends the day alone, hogging all the worms and bugs she finds.  I'm amazed the others haven't copied her, perhaps she is the most athletic of them all and the others can't get over the fence.  She's not doing any harm, just makes a big mess kicking mulch all over my paths!  I have to forgive her though, she and her mates lay lots and lots of eggs for us :-)
 Some of you may find this revolting, but I like spiders and I have no huge problem with the odd little spider web in my house.  This is the web of my kitchen spider, he has lived happily there in the corner of the window for about six months, catching the little midgie things that get through the flywire, and also the odd fly.  Good job Mr Spider I say.  Occasionally he leaves debris on the window ledge, he turfs out the dried bodies of his victims when he does his web housework, and on a few occasions I have thought he had died, a curled up limp body on the window ledge as in the photo above, but I finally worked out he is shedding his exoskeleton as he grows, and turfs that out too.  I find it all rather fascinating.
Keeping Mr Spider company in the kitchen, I had a day of Xmas biscuit baking, knowing that my children are rather fond of them.  Two more sleeps and they will be here for a visit, so looking forward to it!

Merry Christmas to one and all xx

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Xmas Trees That Move

As I write this I can hear rustling in the corner, the Christmas tree is shaking, there is an intruder amongst the decorations.  We put the tree up a couple of days ago and left it naked, just to see what would happen.  Neo was somewhat nervous of it at first, being the first scary tree he has seen, but it didn't take long....
We decided to keep lights off the tree, in the interest of not frying the cat, instead draping them along curtain rails and under the patio outside.  We particularly love this set that are wrapped around the flue of the solid fuel heater, they look so pretty.  And the grey furry one doesn't seem interested in these.  The tree is much more fun, especially now that it has tinsel and balls on it. 
Steve, Neo and I has a quick visit to Perth last weekend to wish a special little someone a very Happy Birthday.  Yay seven! Happy Birthday to you dear Stevie, Happy Birthday to you x
 The aftermath of unwrapping and cake.
Meanwhile, back at home, we realised that we stuffed up our garlic by watering it too much just before harvest.  Last week we stripped the outer papery layers off, to try and dry the globes out a bit, but finally we decided it wasn't working very well and if we didn't do something else quick we would risk losing heaps to rot, so we got to work separating and peeling all the cloves and mostly freezing them while they were still healthy.  We dropped the small ones into a jar of vinegar to see what they are like pickled.  It took ages!  We had done a small amount for the freezer last week but there was heaps to do this time.  We chucked out any cloves that were discoloured and now have a huge quantity of healthy looking frozen cloves.  It will be nice and easy to use them, being that they are already peeled and ready to be chopped.
I also made a batch of lemon/lime marmalade to use up some citrus, the last batch was delicious.  I also made some NeverLasting Orange Slices in Cointreau Syrup.  This batch is made with bought Valencia oranges, following on the first batch I made earlier in the year using our first small crop of a dozen, and boy oh boy they are yummy, particularly with yogurt.
We were rapt coming home from Perth last weekend to find that we'd had a huge 60mm of rain, yeehar.  So the tanks are pretty much full which is amazing for December, and the shed tank that holds the bore water has now been shandied with a heap of rainwater so it's nice and diluted.  We should get the results of the bore water analysis at the end of the week, it will be very interesting to find out exactly what is in it, then we can sit down and work out the most effective way to use it. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Chemical Woes

Over the past few weeks we've both been up to our eyeballs in reading technical agricultural documents about bore water and potential problems with it.  We know our bore water has a degree of salinity, but not a lot, but what we don't know yet it what those salts are comprised of.  Apparently the salinity of ground water is comprised of a number of salt compounds, such as sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride to name a few, and if one of those in particular has a higher ratio than expected of the total salinity reading, then it can cause problems with some plants.  Our total salinity level shouldn't really affect all but the most sensitive plants, particularly if we make sure we don't wet the leaves.  On the whole most plants here are okay for now, but there are problems showing up here and there.
The orchard, which is made up of 25 mixed fruit trees is on the whole, happy.  Except for two trees, the O'Henry peach and the Flavortop nectarine.  Look at the sad, sorry O'Henry peach tree above, it looks dreadful.  It's almost limp, like it's had no water, and the edges of the older leaves go brown and dry, then the leaves fall off.  I think the tree has lost half its leaves.  Oddly the fruit doesn't look too bad, although some of it is dropping.
The Flavortop nectarine looks much the same.  I've worked out the one thing in common with these two trees is that they are on dwarf rootstock, whereas our other trees are not.  After exploding my brains reading masses of chemical articles, the symptoms seem to fit a sodium toxicity, but there are a number of other mineral issues that it could be.  We are going to get our water tested by a laboratory which will give us more detailed clues.  For now we are going to alternate rainwater and borewater watering to hopefully lessen the problem.  It's all a bit of a worry, and a bit disheartening.
 What is odd is that we have another peach and nectarine tree in the orchard, and they are absolutely fine.  Below is the Angel peach, which initially had a problem with leaf curl, but that all fixed now and the tree is growing well, the leaves looking healthy and green.
This is the Goldmine nectarine, that is growing right next to the sick Flavortop nectarine, no problem with the growth of this tree either, and the foliage looks great. 
 This is the almond tree, which is also growing well with no leaf issues.  Almond trees are apparently known to be sensitive to salinity, so the fact that this tree gets the same water, go figure?  As I said, my brain feels like it's going to explode with all the possibilities of what the problem is!  We will know more once the analysis comes back, then we can work on the water management problem and how to lessen any bad effects.
The apples trees are all quite happy, no problems there at all, I enjoy seeing the growth of these pretty Sundowner apples.
 Moving on, we spent this morning cleaning up our harvested garlic for storage and use during the year.  I love the colour of the skins.
 We've had a bit of an issue with sogginess,  we watered a bit too much towards the end of the growing season..... you are not meant to water garlic during its last few weeks of growth to enable it to start to dry off, but as ours was growing in with spinach that needed watering, the garlic got a bit too much water.  We've peeled a lot of the outer layers off, to let the cloves get as much air as possible, and pulled off any that have started to rot.  Below you can see a clove at the front that has changed to a browny colour and it's squishy and starting to pong. 
 The globes that look dried out well enough we have left whole, but any that were looking dodgy we broke apart, chucking out any bits that were soft, and the remaining cloves we peeled and we'll freeze them.  I never knew you could freeze garlic cloves, but our friend Laurie assures us that you can.  It's all a learning curve! :-)
 What I love this time of year is seeing all the huge rolls of hay lying in the paddocks.  One minute there are vast paddocks of green grass, next day it is all cut and lying on the ground.  Slowly it turns golden and the farmers cross their fingers for no rain.  Then after a week or so the big machinery lumbers in and gathers up all the loose hay into these big rolls.  It looks so pretty.  Not a very good photo but I stuck the camera out the car window and crossed my fingers :-)
The grass is quite happy with our bore water and we are determined to keep a lot of our grass green around the house every summer.  We figure it is good for fire safety, it looks nice and it gives the roos something to eat.  They rather enjoy lazing on the damp, warm grass as you can see.
 There are a lot of bulging pouches around at the moment, and a few of the joeys are making their first brief forays out in the big world.  Lovely to see.
 The magpies still turn up regularly for their afternoon tea of a few rolled oats.  They yell out to me if I make them wait too long.
 I was thrilled with this sight the other morning.  People in Perth will think nothing of seeing a New Holland honeyeater as there are scads of them in Perth, we used to have lots in our garden.  But I've never had one in my Albany garden until now, and I'm very excited to see one.  We had very few nectar birds here when we first moved, so I made a determined effort to plant lots of nectar plants to encourage them.   So it is very satisfying to see some, the Western spinebills have been visiting for a couple of years now, and now hopefully the New Hollands will become regulars.
We had an enjoyable weekend with our friends Angie and Andy who came down to stay.  Here they are up at the National Anzac Centre with that magnificent view behind them.  It was great to see you both xx

Friday, 13 November 2015

Upside Down Pears

Well, I was slack last week (reading binge :-) Phillipa Gregory books ) and didn't blog, consequently I have a gazillion photos for you today! 
 It's that time of year, everything is growing and growing and growing, weeds included!  The fruit trees are netted to keep out the parrots.  We didn't bother netting the almond in the bottom left, we were too late, the little green feathered bastard got in there and left us with one, ONE almond!  And here is it, lonely larry almond.... ha ha, we shall call it Larry :-)
The citrus thankfully don't need netting.  They are growing really well now, with loads of small fruit developing.  We have so many limes we don't know what to do with them all! :-)
 Look at this!  These are teeny tiny Williams pears, aren't they cute, little upside down pears.  I never stopped to think that they grow upside down until their weight turns them downwards.  Apples grow the same but the pears are way cuter. 
 These are Sundowner apples.  We are growing five apple varieties, to give us apples over a longer time period, but they've gone bonkers this year with the weird weather, the Sundowner is supposed to be the latest fruiter, but no-one told this tree, this tree is going to be the first fruiter this season!
These are Angel peaches, the flat shaped ones with white flesh.  We had trouble with a bad dose of leaf curl on the tree this season (my fault for not spraying with copper before the leaves started growing) so there's not a huge amount of fruit, maybe a dozen or so.  But we will enjoy them, we got six last year and we still remember how delicious they were.
 I love the new foliage on apricot trees, so so pretty.  This tree has gone beserk with growth, only two apricots but lots of leaf and branch growth.  Next year we shall glut on apricots, I am confident.  :-)
  The Italian Sugar Plum has also gone crazy with tree growth, but it forgot to do its magic with fruit, there is one, just one.  But I look at it regularly, I am very fond of it, looking forward to tasting it.  Perhaps I should name this too?
Nectarines, these are the white fleshed one, called Gold something, Goldmine maybe.  Dumb name for a white fleshed nectarine methinks.  There are about thirty of these on the tree, I am guessing they will be ready in a few weeks.  The other nectarine is a yellow fleshed variety - Flavortop, that has more fruit on it.  Can't wait to start eating our own fruit! 
Michelle, look!  Feijoa flowers!  Hopefully we will get some fruit this year.
 Six months ago Steve planted then lovingly tended 100 garlic plants. Yesterday was harvest day.  It's always a bit tricky working out when to pull them, but a good indication is when the foliage starts browning off at the tops.
 Steve got the spade under each one and I pulled, they had an impressive root system.
 Look at the size of this monster!  It's done so much better this year, last year's garlic was puny, and not just ours, it seemed to be common all around Albany.
 100 healthy garlic globes drying on the racks, very satisfying.  We'll let them dry out for a few days then trim the roots and tidy them up.
Albany and Denmark do an annual Open Garden thingy, to raise money for the Albany Community Hospice.  This started up after the official state Open Garden program turned up its toes.  There are about 12 gardens open over a few weekends.  We decided to choof along and see a couple. 
 Wow, amazing!  We wandered around magnificent lawns meandering through lush garden beds.  This garden had a stunning big pond at the bottom, with a huge weeping willow overhanging it.  We already have a big hole dug ready for a pond, it has sat idle for about 18 months while we tackled higher priority things, but seeing this pond has got us thinking that we must get moving with ours.  
The garden below was like a pristine park, it was predominantly roses which are not really our thing, but we admired the fabulous way the beds were set out and the immaculate lawns.
 I am on a mission to find out what the lovely little plant is, it was in one of the open gardens.  It stands about waist high and looks a bit like an abelia, but not quite.  If anyone knows what it is, please can you tell me!  Meanwhile I shall toodle through Google and hopefully find it.  My garden needs one of these!
 I've been busy in the back garden this week.  I want to widen the second tier of garden beds, so I cut a meandering edge around the grass, then started digging.  I've replanted the grass runners in a bald area, now to think about what plants to put into the spaces.  I like having spaces, gives me food for thought for what might like to grow there. :-)
We've only got half a dozen strawberry plants this year, in my back garden beds.  It's a fight to get a strawberry actually, usually I find the strawberry has a little hole in the underside, and inside is a fat, well fed slug!  I've put them in an area that is too overgrown and the slugs know it!  Next year I shall move them, meanwhile I am sort of hitching the strawberries up and over the leaves of the plants, getting the berries up off the ground seems to fool the slugs.
 Mum, this photo is for you.  Remember when I took a few cuttings of your lovely begonia with the apricot flowers?  Well, they sat stubbornly in pots for a couple of months, died right back and I thought they had carked it.  But no, look what is emerging, it looks like they will survive, hooray!
 Isn't this a beautiful flower, it's a Buddleia, or Butterfly Bush.  This is the first flower out, with masses of buds so there will be many.  Then I hope to see them dripping with butterflies.
 The warm weather brings out the bugs in force.  The giant hornets are zooming around now, in their hunt for spiders.  This one caught herself a big fat spider, stung it to paralyse it, then dragged it away to her underground lair to lay an egg on it.  Gruesome.
 It's nice to see some kookaburras around, they have been rather scarce this year.
 The hens are going well, and have feathered up nicely.  This week we have had five eggs every single day!  They are very happy girls.  
Sadly we lost Bridget, one of the old girls.  She was poorly for a couple of days and I was sitting in their yard, nursing her in a towel when she did a couple of gasps, a bit of a quiver and then died in my arms!  I cried a little bit, she was a lovely hen, quiet and friendly.  I think Angie, the last remaining original, misses her.
Speaking of eggs, we are always thinking of ways to use them.  Steve's signature dish is a cheesy omelette.  OMG, the way he makes them, they are sooooo delicious.  He cooks the omelette until it is not quite set on top, then adds some grated mozarella, and in this case, chopped spinach too, then folds it up and plates it.  The mozarella gets all oozy and glorious, yum!
My clever husband has been busy on his Book Box.  Isn't it lovely, the grain in the she-oak is just gorgeous.  Now it looks like a book with a lock on it to keep it closed, yes?
Da-dum, it actually opens the other way round, with the lock actually being a hinge.  Good job my dear.
I will finish with these photos that Michelle took, of me and Neo.  I love this one, Neo looks utterly content, having a cuddle.
There is a time limit on cuddles however, then you get bashed in the nose.
He's a beautiful boy.