Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lest We Forget

My father's great uncle - 
Private Herbert John MEREDITH   2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade, 8th Division
Killed in action age 32 on the 9th May 1915 at the Battle Of Neuve Chapelle at Rouges Bancs near Fromelle. 
Remembered with honour at the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium.

My mother's 1st cousin once removed - 
Private Thomas CAUSER 9th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters
Killed in action age 25 on the 26th September 1916 in the attack on the Schwaben, Zollern and Hessian trenches in The Battle Of Thiepval.
Remembered with honour at the Thiepval Memorial in France

Steve's mother's great uncle - 
Private Frederick James LUCK  1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment
Killed in action age 28 on the 31st July 1917 in The Battle Of Pilckem Ridge, Ypres
Remembered with honour at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium

Steve's mother's great uncle (and brother of above)
Acting Lance Corporal Harry LUCK 11th Battalion, Essex Regiment
Died of wounds age 25 on the 28th May 1918 in The Advance On Flanders, Ypres
Remembered with honour at Esquelbecq Military Cemetery in France

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Let's Have A Walk

It is suddenly starting to chill down in the late afternoon, and the gleam in Steve's eyes is visible as he starts his favourite job, gathering firewood.  Part of a dead tree very conveniently fell down the other day, so Steve took off with the trailer and chainsaw and came back with a couple of trailer loads of well seasoned jarrah, ready for the fire.  Here he is tackling the wood pile out the back, using his very favourite tool, the block splitter.  Thank you for keep our house toasty warm my dear. :-)
 With the onset of the rain, the small birds are out in profusion.  Wrens, robins and fantails scurry around after bugs and worms, while the nectar birds drink their fill from the autumn flowers that are starting to grow in my garden.  Look at this little smartarse, he is a Western Spinebill and is very clever with his upside down and sideways actions.  He even did a hummingbird impersonation yesterday, hovering briefly alongside the plant, wings beating a zillion miles per hour.

Let's have a little wander around the back garden...
This has been a really successful plant, it's a red salvia.  I grew it from a tiny cutting and it's obviously one tough baby as I am pruning it back regularly now, such strong growth.  The flowers are full of nectar so the bees and birds love it.
 I am tres excited about this.  It's a banana passionfruit vine with its very first flower.  I haven't eaten these since I was a kid and have always wanted to grow them.  I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be warm enough here, so I've planted this and two passionfruit vines along the fence, so they get as much sun as possible. 
The two passionfruit vines have gone absolutely mental, putting on massive growth and I reckon there are at least 25 fruit, which is pretty good going as I planted them quite late, only a couple of months ago.  They are the non-grafted Nelly Kelly, we didn't want a repeat of growing the grafted one in Perth, where rogue runners of the root stock kept sending up useless vines all over the place.  I'm not sure if this crop will be any good though, as the weather is cooling off quickly now, so they may not ripen.  Fingers crossed
 
 This has been a useful plant for quickly filling in spaces.  It's a pepino, low growing with abundant dark green foliage and pretty little purple flowers.
 And, it has fruit!  Ideally I should be supporting this plant so the fruit can hang off the ground away from bugs and excess damp, but I never got around to it.  The fruit are ready when the whitish-green colour of the skin turns more yellowy.  They taste something between a melon and a cucumber, not terribly exciting, but a nice extra addition to a salad or a cheese plate.  And they grown so easily with little attention, so, bonus!
 I filled in other spaces in my newly planted back garden beds with tomato plants, Black Russians and Tommy Toes.  One of the Black Russian plants was great, producing good fruit, but I had all sorts of trouble with the other two, with a yucky thing called Blossom End Rot.  If you see the tomatoes from above they look absolutely fine, but underneath, as you can see in the photo, they are a rotting mess.  I did some research and there are a number of reasons why this happens, insufficient calcium in the soil is one, and infrequent watering is another.  I suspect the latter as I was being stingy with watering.  Anyway, we wont keep any seeds from these plants, and buy some fresh ones for next year.
 I am really pleased with this plant, it is a Bell Chilli, a really mild one, a shade up from capsicum.  These pretty bell shaped fruit will turn bright red so as well as being a food plant, it is also a beautiful garden plant too.  It will last for a few seasons, so I'll take cuttings from time to time to grow new plants.  This one was a cutting from my friend Ruth.
 I haven't officially grown pumpkins for three years now ha ha, but I use my composting worms' castings around my plants, and I give my composting worms pumpkin seeds and skins to eat.  So, those seeds, that obviously don't give a hoot about being partially devoured by worms, germinate in droves.  I pull most of them out but let a few grow, and ended up growing four big Queensland Blues and eight sort of a Jap/Blue cross.  More than enough for our needs.
 This is my determination bed.  It looks messy here and since this photo the foliage has tripled in thickness, great.  It's sweet potato.  I will not rest until I've got the hang of growing them.  It struggles a bit here simply because there is not a long enough period of warm weather, apparently it likes about four months of warmth.  I've tried twice before and failed, but this time I've planted it in a corner behind the house that gets full afternoon autumn sun, and it's growing in black soil mix, my thought being that that dark colour would hold warmth more.  If the leaf growth is anything to go by, it's looking good!  Crossing fingers again.  :-)
 The citrus are doing really well, this is our pride and joy, a Tahitian lime.  It is stuffed full of fruit and the leaves are green and glossy and abundant.  The two lemons are going well too, a lot smaller than this overachiever, but both have some fruit and strong new leaf growth.  The mandarin is still on Death Row, it needs to get its arse into gear or it's gone!  It puts out loads of piddly small leaves that wither away, and not a fruit in sight.  It has exactly the same soil treatment as the other citrus so I really don't know what to do to improve it.  Apart from rip it out and put another one in. 
 The Valencia orange is struggling a bit too, it is always the first tree to have yellowing leaves, and its growth is very slow compared to the others.  But is has a few fruit on it.  I did notice that is has red scale on it, so it's now had a spray with White Oil.  Hopefully it will be happier now.
 This is arrowroot.  I have this plant out the back, and another puny specimen near the chooks.  The only difference being that this one was well watered.  And my goodness does it make a difference, this one is really lush and lovely.  I have put this in mainly because I like the foliage, but the leaves are also a great addition to the compost heap, it seems to be a good habitat for the odd small frog, and if I really got my act together, I could dig up the corms and make arrowroot flour!
 A friend gave me a tiny banana tree last year, so I popped that in the back garden, near the arrowroot and sweet potato.  I'm trying to make this my 'tropical corner'.  I've also put in a White Sapote and plan to add an avocado and a hibuscus.
 This is Minim Greek Basil, it has grown like the clappers, hooray!  I love being able to wander out the back and grab a handful for my salad.
 Our three chooks are doing well, with egg production slightly on the increase.  We got nine last week which is much better than the 5-6 we've been getting.  Amazing to think that at one stage we were getting about 22 a week.  Never mind, they are getting older now. 
 THIS, is a pain in the bum.  Although the chook house has a concrete floor, there is a tiny gap between the wall and the floor, and the bloody mice get in.  I keep putting rocks along the edge, and bricks, but they find a way.  This time of year seems to be the worst.  I never knew how much they tunnel too, they have actually tunneled right under the concrete floor of the house into the chookyard on occasion.  We'll have to make up a runny mix of concrete and pour it around the edge of the house I think.
 Do you remember the wooden book Steve made?  It sits right outside the chookyard door, in my front fenced garden.  This is what 18 months of weathering has done to it.  I love it, it has character.
And on a final note on our walk, my frog pond has five fat residents.  The pond is an old bath sunk into a hole in the ground, and I've put a few logs and an old pallet over one end, to stop the kookaburras from gobbling them up.  They sun themselves for hours every day, and there are tadpoles, yay! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

No Photos Of Castle Rock

We have had the pleasure of the company of Michelle and Michael staying this week.  We've been out and about taking in the sights.  This photo is taken at the Walpole TreeTop Walk, part of our 'to the west' day out.  We also wandered around Denmark then had lunch at Boston Brewery (I think we need a frequent customer discount card ha ha).
 We wandered atop the cliffs of Shelley Beach, beach walked at Cosy Corner, attempted the climb at Castle Rock in the Porongurups (Steve stayed home, Michelle and I made it halfway up, and Michael power-walked to the top and made it make in half the expected time!).  Steve and I are about to hit another diet and exercise regime starting this week, so Castle Rock will be an aim in a month or so, we are lighter and fitter.  :-)  And then I can provide photos!
 We scattered Steve's dad's ashes at the top of the cliffs over Shelley Beach, in a little place near Steve's favourite fishing spot. It seems the perfect place.
 I have purloined many of Michelle's beautiful photos for this blog, thank you lovey.  Isn't this a beautiful photo of our Magic Faraway Tree.
Neo loves Michelle and Michael, thoroughly enjoying their company. He wandered the house meowing last night, I think he was looking for his new friends who had gone home.
We have had heaps of rain the last couple of days, and the birds are out in profusion.  For the first time ever I spotted a couple of shy Western Rosellas in my little back garden, tentatively checking out the lavender flowers.  Beautiful.
And on a totally random final note,  I made my batch of winter firestarters.  When we harvest sweetcorn, I strip the kernels from the cobs to freeze, and instead of throwing the cobs away, I dry them then cut them up.  I have a massive bag of tealight candles that I don't use, so I melt down a dozen then dribble the wax over the pieces of dried corn cobs.  They do a good enough job of staying alight to get our fire going quickly and I feel very virtuous using something that is considered rubbish.  In saying that, any spare cobs go to my composting worms, they love them!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Skullduggery

I love autumn.  The weather is cooling down, there's a wee bit of rain and the green tinges are broadening and beautifying the ground.  The kangaroos are happy as there is grass to eat, so they spend more time lounging around looking satisfied with life.
 We took the nets off the fruit trees now that the fruiting season is finished.  That system of poly pipes over the trees with the nets draped over those worked well as the trees are still tiny, but we are still thinking of getting the whole orchard netted in the next couple of years.
There are still a couple of apples on the trees, and as our total fruit production was about 2 dozen pieces of fruit, a couple of apples are worth protecting!  I've wrapped the branches with a tube of old net curtain and tied the ends, it will be interesting to see if it foils the green parrots.
 We spent some time with orchard maintenance with the nets coming off and mowing the suddenly long grass.  We also removed the temporary fence that keeps the chooks out of the orchard, we wanted the trees' roots to get settled in before we let the little feathered tyrants in there, it's amazing the holes they can dig around the base of trees!  They weren't interested at first, staying close to their house.
Finally one plucked up the courage to follow me out into the orchard.  I forgot to mention, we lost another one last week :-(  Same situation, she got poorly and stopped eating and was gone within three days.  We are not exactly sure how old our girls are, we think they are about three or four, but maybe they are older, I believe the hybrids only live to five or six.  Anyway, we are down to three now, we have Anne, Angie and Angelina (how about that, the three As) left.  Next time we get more chooks, we'll buy 'point of lay' young birds so we'll know for sure how old they are, but for now our three ladies have the range of the orchard at their disposal.
 Here they are throwing the nectarine tree mulch all over the place, having a lovely time gobbling up worms and grubs.  They thoroughly enjoyed themselves until a magpie swooped them a couple of times, then they went all shy and put themselves back in their yard.  It wont take them long to get brave I'm sure.
 I am thrilled with the progress of our citrus, they aren't in the orchard but instead are planted between the shed and the house.  I wanted them closer to the house as I reckon there is nothing nicer than the smell of citrus blossom wafting around.  For the first time I have made a batch of marmalade using entirely our own fruit, a lemon and lime combo.  It is delicious! :-)
 I have also been harvesting my tamarillos, also known as tree tomatoes.  I made a batch of tamarillo and apple chutney which is now maturing in the pantry for a couple of months.  I had a little taste and it is very sweet, hopefully it will mellow down with time.
 A lot of people don't know what tamarillos are, this is what they look like cut open.  You can see why they are called a tree tomato with the seed patterns.  You need to eat them very ripe to get some sweetness, you just spoon the flesh out with a spoon.  They are not the most magnificent fruit, pleasant without being spectacular.  I just like having something a bit different.  I think I'll make a batch of tamarillo jam with the next batch I pick.
 It's good to have a handsome helper around the place.  I picked up a small screw in my back tyre and it was flat as a pancake one morning.  Steve kindly changed it for me and we took the wheel in for repair.
I thought it was about time I did an embroidery update.  I've been adding things as the whim has taken me, the whole thing is based on Casalguidi design type, being high relief embroidery.  I've just started adding french knots moss along the top of the log, after that I'm not sure what to do.  I think something under the log, something grassy perhaps. 
And on a final random note, what do you think this is?  It's rather fascinating, looks like a weeny little skull.  It's actually a seed pod from a snapdragon flower, those little holes form on the bottom of the seed pod and the tiny seeds fall out the holes.  It's rather cute in a creepy sort of way don't you think?