Saturday, 31 October 2015

Of Soft Garlic And Fluffy Bees

We were in Perth again last week, to celebrate the 60th birthday of our good friend Andy, and also to celebrate mum's birthday.  Here is the birthday girl herself, playing with Riley.
Here's dad relaxing, he's hard at work with his hydrotherapy rehab these days, and his legs are getting some muscle tone back.  Well done dad.
Here are Paul, Michelle and Michael, enjoying the delicious spread that mum provided - we had Krispy Kreme Donuts....OMG yum!
 And here is Steve, relaxing with a full stomach and a nice glass of wine.
Speaking of Steve, he's been busy in the shed.  This is the beginnings of his new project, a book box.  The wood is sheoak and it will look even more beautiful once he starts smoothing and tweaking and shaping and finally varnishing.  He's a clever lad.
We are so enjoying the harvests from our garden, it's very productive at present.  As well as the continuous supply of potatoes, we are being spoiled with scads of artichokes, look at them all!  I am trying to learn ways to use them, having in the past only every boiled them and then eaten them by pulling the leaves off one by one and dipping them in melted butter and lemon juice.  I tried cutting some down to just the hearts last night, to braise, but I find it hard to work out where the edible and inedible parts begin and end.  It will be a learning curve, a delicious one!
We have loads of sweet and juicy carrots, the broad beans are giving us a constant supply, and the garlic is fattening up.  The garlic is not yet ready for harvest, for keeping as you know it in the shops, sort of dried out on the outside, this garlic although big, is still soft and succulent.  We love roasting whole globes of garlic with potatoes, and we thought we'd give this fresh garlic a try.
Look at that for a roast dinner.... local beef with our garlic, potatoes, carrots, broad beans and English spinach.  Spinach, wow, that has grown like never before, it's like a jungle!  But still tender and yum.  It's been a good growing season, and being able to water properly has already proved its worth.
 Excuse the look of my dinner plate, but this is what roasted fresh garlic looks like, the cloves don't have any skins on them, and they are surrounded by three or four soft layers of flesh, like an onion.  It was very mild and very soft and very very nice.  Every bit was eaten :-)
 As well as prolific vegies, there are flowers everywhere in my back garden, the cottage garden area just outside the house.  It's so pretty and there are bees and hoverflies and butterflies absolutely everywhere.
 I love alyssum, a white carpet along the ground, with a delicious honey scent.
 The bees and hoverflies are especially attracted to the yellow flowers at the moment.
 Oh, yes, I almost forgot!  I spied something fascinating the in garden the other day.  Well, I heard it first, a slow leisurely buzzing around a plant.  I looked and did a doubletake, it looked a bit like a bumblebee, I've seen those in Tasmania, fat and fluffy and adorable.  But there are no bumblebees in WA so I looked closer, and was amazed to see a fat bee with teddy bear yellow fuzz all over its upper half, and dark blue and white stripes down its bottom half.  I kid you not!  Alas I wasn't quick enough with my camera, but wait right there, I shall go and find a picture of one on the WWW and show you....

Okay, I'm back, isn't it lovely, it's called a blue-banded bee.  I gather they are not uncommon, but I've never seen one before and was thrilled to bits.
My Hebe shrub has finally started to take off and put on some growth, I love the colour of the flowers, all different shades.
 The garlic chives I moved from the vegie patch to the cottage garden have settled in well.
Coriander plants are flowering all over the place.  As you can see, the hover flies love these flowers, they are beneficial insect attractants.  I throw the seeds around with gay abandon so there are lots of plants, with their dainty white flowers nodding in the breeze.
Now you may not be excited by this, but I am.  This is a red currant plant.  It has languished unhappily in a pot for the last year, neglected, while we procrastinated over the site of the berry growing area.  I ended up planting it in the cottage garden a couple of weeks ago and it has gone crazy, probably doubled its size.  And look, LOOK, there are two cute as a button little currants on it.  :-)  I just hope I can get a taste of them when they ripen before the little birds find them.  And I hope it grows a few more than two, but the first of anything is exciting, no matter how small the quantity.
Aren't passionfruit flowers fascinating and beautiful things, it's sort of like they are inside out.  I probably sound like a broken record, but I am gobsmacked at the growth and productivity of both the passionfruit and banana passionfruit.  We've had passionfruit right through winter, we are eating banana passionfruit now, and both vines have put on massive growth and a zillion new flowers, ready for the next crop.   I love growing things!! :-)
On a final note, guess how many eggs we had this week...... 31!! 
The new girls are settled and happy, they now know how to be chickens, spending their days foraging in the orchard and empty vegie beds.  They know we are the bringers of the scrap bucket, and cluck excitedly around our legs when we visit them.  It's so nice to see.  They are feathering up nicely too, so will soon be as beautiful as Angie and Bridget, the old girls.  This is the big shrub in the corner of their yard, there will often be a chicken or two sitting up in it, being king of the castle.  Life is good in the henhouse. :-)

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Give Me A Home Amongst The Artichokes...

This is Angie on the left, and Bridget on the right, our old retired ladies.  They no longer lay eggs but they still help us out with eating bugs and turning over the soil in the areas we let them free range.  They are looking rather pensive in the photo, I wonder why.... could it be that they can hear clucking noises from a big cardboard box we've just carried into their yard?
Da-dum, meet our five new ladies, in the prime of their egg laying.  They are from a commercial egg place down here, not battery hens, but barn hens, although fairly crowded I'm sure.  They have unsuntanned white faces which makes them look rather odd, a bit like little feathered vampires.  A few feathers missing but they are in good health.  They were terrified for the first day, staying inside the henhouse, not game to venture outside.
The next morning they got a bit braver, and realised that it's fun in the sun!  I think they shall be Connie, Doris, Eva, Florence and Greta although I haven't got to know them well enough get to know which girl has which name.  There is one bossy one, oddly it's the one with no feathers on her neck, so she has moved from being henpecked to deciding she is the big chief!
 The best thing is we have fresh eggs again, yeehar!
The new bossy boots has been a bit mean to my Angie and Bridget, not vicious, but chasing them away and standing over them, being imposing.  They were right out of sorts with this behaviour, having lived in a harmony for a couple of years.  But they solved their own problems by distancing themselves to the artichoke section of the orchard.  The new girls aren't brave enough yet to venture out into the orchard, and one of Angie and Bridget's favourite hangouts is under the mass of artichoke plants, so they spent a lot of time dozing under there, stress free.
 Speaking of the artichokes, in a word - YUM!  We've grown heaps more than last year, amazing what a bit of watering can do. :-)
 A week has now gone by since the new ladies arrived, and all is harmonious.  The new girls have realised that they don't have to fight for every mouthful of food, which I imagine they did in an intensive poultry environment, so they have calmed down and are enjoying learning how to do chicken outdoor things.  Their faces are pinking up now they are getting some sun, they look more like proper hens now.
This morning a number of them were revelling in a dust bath in the sun.  It must be luxurious, the way they roll around in the dirt, getting absolutely filthy, eyes closed in raptures of delight.  The ones not dustbathing were up in the big shrub that grows in the corner of their yard.  I've pruned the bottom of the shrub so that there are a number of branches they can jump onto, and I think they like being king of the castle climbing up high to see what's going on elsewhere.
 Here is Bridget all fooffed out in the warm sand, having a lovely sunbath.
The frogs are starting to show themselves now the weather is warming up.  I have an old bath sunk into the ground in my garden, half covered with old bits of wood for protection, so the frogs can hide from kookaburras.  Now the shrubs have grown up around the pond, providing plenty of cover, the frogs spend a lot of their day just hanging out on the wood.  They are big fatties, and I was delighted to see some tadpoles in the water when I swooshed the waterplants apart.  Yay, I like to help to increase the frog population.
Here is Neo, exhausted.  One small frog made its way up to the house and plastered its flabby white belly to the outside of our bedroom window, attracted by the light that I was reading from presumably.  Neo spent over an hour trying to get that damn frog, throwing himself at the window, stalking it, trying to bat it, trying to bite it, while the frog, safe on the other side of the glass, just leisurely wandered around the window, putting frog belly smudges on the clean glass!
This kangaroo is Growler, so named as she is rather grumpy and growly, telling other roos off if they come near her.  I got a look at her little joey the other day, fascinated with the white markings on its forehead.  Looks a bit like a map of North America!  Normally the Western Grey kangaroos have a tiny white dot on their forehead, if that, so to see one with that amount of white was quite a surprise.  I wonder if any more of its body has white blotches on it, time will tell.
Turning to the gentle arts, I've finished my forest floor embroidery.  I had to make myself stop as I just kept adding things.  Looking at it now I think I've put a few too many french knots, oh well.  I think I'd like to frame it in a circular frame as I like the way it looks in the circular embroidery hoop.
Last week we had our five yearly Open Day and Exhibition at our embroidery group.  It's kept everyone busy preparing for it.  The day was a great success, we had over 150 people come through the door, and everyone gave us such positive feedback, about our embroidery and also the delicious morning and afternoon tea we provided.  We all went home very satisfied.
 Here's a few shots of some of the lovely work.  This is Romanian embroidery, isn't it lovely.
 And this is Brazilian embroidery, pieces done in a recent workshop.
 The house at the front is canvaswork, and I think the piece behind is hardanger.
 A lovely handmade, embroidered box.
Part of our wedding embroidery display, from the pieces we made last year for the WA Embroidery Guild's exhibition.
Some of the beautiful embroidered pictures.  I think the middle one is Elizabethan embroidery.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Dancing Rainbows

This weekend we had the pleasure of the company of our friends Cori and Adrian who came to stay.  Cori arrived laden with homegrown artichokes, olive oil and olives, yum!  We had a taste comparison with our olives and theirs, quite different but both good, ours are more vinegary as we used a different pickling recipe.  Each batch ends up different so it's always interesting. 

We spent evenings sitting on the verandah with a wine, watching the kangaroos, and went exploring during the day.  We found a fabulous beach near Denmark, called Lights Beach.  It has loads of rocks and little streams, a wonderful place for children, both Cori and I are looking forward to taking our grandchildren there one day.
 And of course we lunched at Boston Brewery.  Here is Adrian looking every so pleased with his beer sampling paddle.  :-)
And here are Cori and I, quilting Cows, amazing that we met online as members of a quilting group almost 20 years ago.  It was lovely to have you to stay Cori and Adrian. :-)
Meanwhile, on the home front, we harvested great load of beetroot, some were like footballs!  The whole lot was washed, roasted, sliced and put into jars with spiced vinegar, it will be ready in a month.  That will do us for the year, Steve in particular loves pickled beetroot in his sandwiches.
 We were rather nonplussed the other day when this giant bird wandered past, snatching up the odd bug as it walked.  The little kangaroos took one look and fled, it was a large, imposing sight!  On Googling I can announce that it is a Straw-necked Ibis, apparently they are handy birds to have around as they love gobbling up insects of every variety.  We've never seen one before, it was fascinating!
 Speaking of wildlife in the garden, have a close look at this picture.  Those who have seen Jurassic Park, do you remember the scene when the velociraptor was hiding in the bushes, with just one eye in profile visible?  That's what this reminds me of!  In fact it is a blue-tongued or bobtail lizard, a fat one so I hope it's a female, and I hope she hangs around, I am jealous of my friend Ruth who has bobtail babies in her garden.
 I was sitting at the table looking out the back door, when I spotted her climbing up the steps in the garden, what a clever lizard she is.  Then she hid herself in the nearby plant and poked her head out.  Neo could see all this going on through the glass door and was quite beside himself with excitement!
And speaking of Neo, he has been having fun in the kitchen in the mornings.  Now that the morning sun is higher in the sky, it catches the crystal I have hanging in the window for a short time, creating little dancing rainbows all over the kitchen.  It's very pretty and Neo thinks it's great fun, throwing himself up the cupboard doors trying to catch them. He does entertain me :-)

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Birthday Boy

My dad turned 80 the other day, and we organised a family dinner for him at one of his favourite restaurants, Matilda Bay.  It is more and more rare to have the family together these days as people start to spread out, so it was nice to see 13 of us get together for this night.
 Here are mum and dad examining the delectable menu.
 Here we are.  It was a good night, lots of chatter and lovely food.
Dad is clearly very happy with his cake ha ha ha :-) 

Congratulations on becoming an octogenarian Dad! xx

Friday, 2 October 2015

What We Are Doing Today

Go Eagles!!  So excited that the Eagles are in the Grand Final!  The tv is on already and we are soaking up all the interviews and past footage.  We love Grand Final Day! :-)