Friday, 30 January 2015

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Out And About

It's still all about watering watering watering, gosh the ground is dry now.  The magpies appreciate me filling the birdbath which dries up every other day.  The squawky juvenile has taken to sitting in it, blissfully lowering its belly into the cool water.  Cute.
This tree is at the back of my back garden, and a while back I hung an old bird feeder on it, with a bowl of dessicated coconut in it for the little birds.  So far it has sat there forlornly, ignored, but this week I keep hearing the sounds of many many little scrub wrens and when I look out the window I can see loads of them in the feeder having a nosh up.  I can't begin to describe the joy I feel, seeing the small birds slowly finding the courage to come into our newly formed back garden.  The other morning was the highlight, when out the kitchen window I spied a couple of wrens making their way through the plants right up near the house, searching for bugs.  I am soooo thrilled!  I wasn't quite so thrilled to see the damp bellied squawky juvenile magpie sitting on top of the feeder though - he must have been getting a little bored as he amused himself pulling the sticks out of the roof of the feeder, making the one thick, thatched roof into a somewhat see-through affair.  hmmm
I love that the Lesser Wanderer butterflies are being enticed close to the house by the new plants.  They have taken a particular fancy to the giant pumpkin flowers.
 I am determined to grow sweet potatoes, I've tried a few time without much success.  They need about four months of warm weather to grow well and I suspect our climate here is a little bit too cool.  It's always a race to get the slips (cuttings) growing early enough to get them in the ground early enough to grow well.  I've had these slips sitting on the window sill and they've all grown healthy roots, so I planted them yesterday in a yummy, gooey bed of manure, worm castings, straw, soil mix and a dash of blood and bone and trace elements.  Crossing my fingers.  The soil mix we've put in the back beds, which is where I've planted the sweet potato slips, is very dark, so I am hoping that will mean it will retain more warmth than other areas I've tried growing them.  Watch this space...
This is my favourite little bit of the new back garden beds.  The purple flowering plant is cat mint, grown from a minute cutting from a friend.  The growth of it is phenomenal and it is absolutely laden with blossom, off which is hanging hordes of bees and butterflies.  In front of that is a mini greek basil plant, so handy being near the back door.  And the Cousin It plant at the front is an Acacia cognata "Limelight", which will apparently grow to a metre across.
There is nothing we love more than growing what we eat, it is so satisfying, and I love knowing how my food has grown, happy that there are no poisonous chemicals involved.  At the moment Steve is harvesting the summer potatoes (30 odd kilos), we have scarlet runner beans coming out of our ears (12 odd kilos), plus a steady smaller supply of carrots, round beans, cucumbers and rhubarb.  The corn and the tomatoes will be next.  We ended up with seven Angel peaches from our new tree, what a delicious treat that was.  The new  O'Henry peach tree also has seven fruit on it, not quite ready yet.  We weren't expecting any fruit from such little trees so to get a taste has been wonderful.
We have just started a regime of healthy eating and upping the exercise after the binges of Christmas, to try and shift some excess weight!  So loads of salads and fruit are on the menu.  We treated ourselves to some Albany oysters, yum yum!!
I spend a pleasant few hours catching up with my buddy Lesley.  We met for lunch at Albany Heritage Park, the area up on Mount Adelaide where the new National Anzac Centre has been built in the Princess Royal Military Museum grounds.  It's the first time I've been up there to see what's been done.  It is just lovely, the grounds are beautifully landscaped, there is plenty of parking, and there is a lot to see.  We had lunch at The Garrison, a small cafe next to the Anzac Centre.
 This is the view from the cafe window, looking don\wn over Princess Royal Harbour and King George Sound.
 And still more view.  It was just lovely.
 This is the Forts Store, a lovely gift shop showcasing local talent.  I love these old buildings.

You can walk all around the Heritage Park, there are historic building dotted around, some have been put to use, I hope the other will be too.  We went for a walk up the hill where there are bush tracks to old weapons and lookouts and bunkers from the war.  What is great is that the public are allowed to wander at will pretty much, and the some of the big cannon type guns are about to be climbed on, with the swivel action and the raising and lowering of some of them still usable.  So you get to see lots of man boys having lots of fun playing with great big  guns. :-)
 In keeping with our new efforts to walk more, Steve and I have been taking ourselves out every morning for a walk elsewhere, the intent also to give ourselves a bit of a holiday, and pretend to be tourists in our own area.  It's been really nice.  We've had a few walks on Cosy Corner Beach, we went into Albany and walked up the Middleton Beach boardwalk, did the Lake Seppings Bird Walk, and we drove to Denmark and had a great few hours at Ocean Beach.  We had a look at the inlet bit first, wandering over this slightly queasy bouncing pontoon bridge to a sort of bird nesting area.
 The cormorant looked on, unimpressed.
Ocean Beach is gorgeous.  There is this part that is very sheltered, with small but long running waves, much to the delight of beginner surfers.  The sand is pristine white and soft and the whole area is very pleasing to the eye.
 And Ocean Beach goes for miles and miles, the further round you walk you notice the waves getting bigger and the skills of the surfers more pronounced.  Lovely spot.
On the way home I just had to stop on Lower Denmark Road and take a photo looking over beautiful Torbay, the area that we now live.  We keep pinching ourselves how lucky we are to live in such a wonderful place. :-)

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

How To Piss Off The Cat

I could moan about the heat, I mean, 30 degrees is flippin' hot as far as I'm concerned.  But I wont, it wouldn't be nice would it, when you poor things in Perth have just suffered a day over 44 degrees.  Dreadful!

I spend a lot of my time hand watering, the ground has dried out massively, and the plants soon tell us limply if they need a drink.  I try and water vegies and my garden plants every other day, and the native shrubs once a week.  Steve has just put in a micro sprinkler system in the orchard, that saves a heap of time.  Things are looking pretty good, this photo is part of my first garden, the fenced one in front of our house near the chooks.  The shrubs have grown enough now that it is its own little microclimate, with plenty of shade to protect the smaller plants, and the moisture hovering amongst the foliage.
I am very excited about my tamarillo tree.  It's been in the ground for a couple of years, last year I got six fruit from it, currently it is laden with dozens and dozens of unripe fruit.  They are also known as a tree tomato.
 My frog pond is starting to look a bit more natural.  It's an old bath that I sunk into the ground.  Slowly the little reeds and water lilies that my friend Ruth kindly gave me are starting to spread, and the little ground covers I've put in around the edge of the bath are starting to creep over the stark, white edge of the bath.  I've got five big frogs living in there.  However, due to the distinct lack of tadpoles, I wonder if I have a bachelor pad of frogs?
 I love this plant, it is called a Buddleia or Butterfly Bush, for very good reason.  I planted it near the entrance to the chook yard, and every time I round the corner to visit the chooks, butterflies cascade out of this lovely plant.  You'll have to take my word for it, there really were butterflies on it just before this photo! :-)  I need to give it a prune, see how the spent flowers turn all brown, plus the branches get very leggy, it likes a good trim.
I planted a row of carrot seeds in the new back garden beds, figuring I wouldn't waste the good soil mix that Steve filled the beds with.  The shrubs are still small so there is a lot of soil mix that no plants are using, so I'm filling the gaps with veggies.  The carrots have grown like crazy, even though they are a bit squished together.  I am thinning them out by picking a couple every morning and munching them whilst watering, they are sweet and delicious.  :-)
 A few pumpkins sprouted in the back beds too, from my compost.  This plant has turned into a monster!  I swear it grows about a foot a day.  It is creeping towards my cucumber and pea plants so I'll cut it back a bit now some fruit has set.
Some of the small pumpkins.  When they pop up in compost it's always a surprise as to what variety I am going to get.  I think these look like the round Jap variety, which is good, I think they are the best sort for pumpkin scones as they have quite an intense flavour.
 The citrus trees are coming along nicely.  Apart from the stupid mandarin, they all have a bit of fruit on them.  We picked our first lime the other day, very exciting!
 We chose to plant and smaller but more intensive area in the veggie patch this year, better for watering.  Steve dug masses of stuff into the soil and we are continuing to add compost, worm castings and a touch of NPK blue fertiliser to maintain all the growth.  Growth, holy moly, can you see me amongst the corn?  Behind me is a massive wall of scarlet runner beans, the supporting trellis being about 2 metres high and 3 metres long.  It is filled with rampant, twisting vines, covered with beautiful scarlet flowers, and bedecked with many many long beans.  I think we've picked about 9 kilos so far, they are absolutely delicious!
Some of the day's produce, King Edward and Dutch Cream potatoes, rhubarb and the scarlet runner beans.
 Now this may not look very exciting, but believe me it is.  You know how we planted our orchard last autumn, 23 odd trees that have been tended with great care?  Well, THIS is the very first piece of fruit!  It's an Angel peach, a white fleshed flat peach.  And OMG, it was delicious!  There are four more on the tree so hopefully they will ripen successfully too.
Speaking of the orchard, the well fenced orchard that Steve slaved over, can you see what is wrong with this picture?  Trespassers!  Steve just about cried when I told him there were roos in the orchard, feeling like all his hard work had gone to waste.  But when I went and moved them on (I found out that if I turn the sprinklers on they get a bit fright and hastily leave the locale!) I discovered that they hadn't jumped the big perimeter fence, they had snuck in through a side bit of fence that is unfinished and quite low.  She's a crafty bugger that Patience. 
All the wild things are getting hungry now that summer is upon us.  The magpies arrive every morning for their handful of rolled oats.  This cheeky one is perched on the settee just outside our bedroom window, watching Neo inside, using his scratching post.  Neo, the big nong, didn't even look up for ages, and when he did, ha ha ha, he just about had a fit when he saw that cheeky magpie looking at him! He threw himself at the window all fluffed up and chattering, very cross indeed - the magpie thought it was a great joke :-)
The green parrots have started trying to pinch the magpies' oats, and we sometimes hear loud squawky battles going on as the parrot tries to bash up the magpie and visa versa.  A few loose feathers float around and peace descends once again as they agree to share.
Stumpy the quenda is a regular 'just on dark' visitor.  He gobbles up the last remaining rolled oats that the birds have left.  Neo is beside himself when Stumpy arrives, racing up and down the house, peering out all the windows, tail lashing, thinking he would very much like to eat this big pointy nosed rat looking thing.
 There are eagles high in the sky, circling around awaiting opportunities for a meal.  There are a lot of kookaburras around too making all sorts of raucous racket, not their normal laugh, it's quite a different sound and I suspect they are nesting high in the mallees.
 The chooks have a large bush growing in the corner of their yard, I planted it way back to provide them with some shade.  It's a tree lucerne or tagasaste, and it is actually a fodder crop tree, quite edible to animals.  Occasionally I bend the big branches down a bit and the chooks have a lovely time leaping into the air to nip off the tender young leaves.  That's Angie on the ground under there, having a dust bath after her leafy snack.
 I don't know what but the chooks have been on strike for the last month or so, hardly laying at all and also moulting which is odd, normally they moult in autumn.  We were a little suspicious of our last bag of laying pellets, perhaps something crucial was missing?  So we bought another variety and things seem to be improving.  We are getting one or two eggs a day now which is still down on their usual performance, but a darn sight better than zero!  It is nice to be able to have a dippy egg and a piece of home made toast for breakfast again.  :-)
I had a go at making yogurt cheese the other day.  You basically strain greek yogurt through cheesecloth until all the whey drips out, which leaves the yogurt thick enough to roll into little balls.  I don't think I strained mine for long enough, the outer part was nice and firm, but the inside was still very soft.  Anyway, I tried it, and bunged them into a jar of olive oil with a bit of garlic, rosemary and a bay leaf.
 Not bad, quite tart as you'd expect, but quite nice, particularly when dipped in dukkah. But the squishiness of them spoiled it, they are turning to mush in the jars now.  So if I do it again, I will have to improve the way I strain the whey out to get a firmer end product.  It's good to try these things out though.
 Michelle came down to stay for a couple of days recently which was lovely.  We had a great day in Albany, first we visited the Sugar Boy, a fabulous sweet shop that also has a wonderful collection of various sized tins.  It used to be tucked away right at the top of town on a back street, but now it has moved down the main street and has doubled in size.  It's sort of like walking into Willy Wonka's shop.  :-)

Then we went to the museum where there was a Da Vinci exhibition.  It was replicas of his inventions, about 60 in all.  Things like the Archimedes Screw and all sorts of labour saving devices that the theory of are still in use today.  He was a very clever man that Da Vinci.  Out the front was Mona Lisa with a hole in her face.  Of course I had to plonk mine in, I look rather regal don't you think?
Then we had lunch at a new opened placed called Due South.  Beautifully situated on the waterfront next to the Albany Entertainment Centre.  This is the outlook (thanks for the photo Mellie), nice huh.
The decor is great, it is well spaced out and they have a terrific bottle shop focusing on local wines.  The food was okay, not great, not crap, okay.  I expect it to get better and better.  Regardless, it's a nice place to just drop in for a coffee too.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Remembering Asta 11/2/01 - 31/12/14

Way back in 2001 I took Michelle to see a litter of Burmese kittens, for her to choose one to come with her when the kitten was old enough.  She chose a tiny Blue-Tortie Burmese girl and a few weeks later we went and got her.  Michelle mused over a few names and finally came up with Asta, the perfect name for the perfect little kitten.
We were all instantly besotted.
 And she loved us all back, and shared her love around.
She especially liked snuggling under clothes or blankies
 And loved being held like a baby
She went out of her way to wiggle into the hearts of people who didn't think they liked cats.  But they hadn't met Asta!
But of all of us, she loved her mum the best of all.
She had many fun times.  She learned how to look like a Christmas tree decoration.
She surveyed the festivities from the bar.
The dogs did not know what the hell hit them once madame arrived.  At first they thought she might be some fluffy edible toy, but after a week of segregation, it was apparent from very early on that Asta reigned supreme.  They were terrified of her!  Can you see the look on Maxie's face?  She would quake in terror whenever Asta lowered herself to be congenial and snuggle up.  Maxie and Pepper would wait, quivering, until Asta went to sleep, and then quietly extricate themselves from the area.
They didn't have a hope.  Here is a photo of the dogs and their new bed, nice and big to fit them both in.  Except they aren't in it are they! 
This is Asta in a nutshell where the dogs were concerned.  Overlord.  She would stalk them or simply sidle up to them, giving them 'the look', and they didn't quite know what to do.  She was a demon cat at times!
Asta had the 'dirty look' down to a fine art.  Total disdain. 
And boy would she mouth off.  If you looked at her when she was in a mood, out would come this loud, raucous, 'up yours' meow.  I swear if she'd had hands, she'd have given you the finger at the same time.
 She did lower herself occasionally to being the butt of jokes.
Creepy Spider Hands From Above was a favourite game.  She used to get quite irate about it, eventually leaping up to capture said hand and give it a darn good thrashing.
But sleeping was the best thing.
 Particularly where there was heat involved.  She was like a heat-seeking missile.
 And nothing better than being tucked up in bed, at first with a human, and then being left in the warmth of the unmade bed whilst said human had to get up and go to work.
 I made myself a woollen scarf, of which Asta claimed and fell in the love with it, kneading it with her claws and getting a bit drooly.   The scarf was renamed The Cat's Mother and I never got to use it :-)
 Asta like to try out a variety of sleeping positions, she was quite the contortionist.
 Looking at people upside down was quite a hobby of hers
 Madame wasn't one for drinking out of a bowl, no, Madame required the turning on of the tap whenever humans were in the bathroom, so she could daintily lap.
She also used to wait until we had finished our showers so she could hop into the shower stall and lick the water off the floor.  Weirdo.
 What a cat.  She was so special to us all, but especially to Michelle, her mum.
Sadly, Asta left this world last night, and we are all feeling the hurt. 
Goodbye darling Asta, now at The Rainbow Bridge