Saturday, March 18, 2017

Of Tomatoes and Harleys

It's been busy this month!  Steve has finished his lovely little coffee table.  Isn't it beautiful, She-oak has the most beautiful grain.  He even made a couple of coasters too.
And here is Chief Appraiser, Madam Lucy, giving the table her undivided attention ha ha.
 We have gazillions of tomatoes ripening so I've been chop chop chopping them for various recipes.  I've also done a few jars of dried tomatoes in olive oil, time consuming but worth it as they are delicious.
 Gallons of tomato ketchup cooking
 And loads of chopped rhubarb about to become jam.  That is a recent discovery - rhubarb jam, it is rather delicious and tangy.
It never looks quite enough after all the hours of preparations and cooking, but here is 3 litres of tomato ketchup and 5 litres of rhubarb jam.  Not to mention the big containers of bolognese sauce that I made the week before that are now safely tucked away in the freezer.  The next big batch of tomatoes I will simply chop and freeze as is, very useful for cooking later in the year.  It's all very satisfying using produce in different ways, and knowing it can be used over the year when the growing season is over.
 We've both had birthdays recently so have treated ourselves to a couple of meals out. 
 Here we are at the Emu Point Cafe, a lovely venue that never disappoints with their food.
 Emu Point is a beautiful place, so picturesque.  Here's Steve looking at the channel from Oyster Harbour into King George Sound.  I used to fish here when I was a kid on holidays, wonderful memories.
 We've had visitors too!  Firstly Steve's cousin Terry came down to stay with us.  Here he is with his beautiful Harley Davidson motor cycle, specifically a "Fat Boy Harley", I never knew there were different types!  He and the South West chapter of the HOGS (Harley Owners Group) came down to have a ride to the Porongurups with the Albany HOGS.  It was great to see you Terry :-)
 And we've just said goodbye to our dear friends Angie and Andy who came to stay with their lovely friends Marty and Judy who are here from England.  It's always so nice seeing people enjoying our kangaroos and little birds.
 We had a gad about town, including a visit to the stunning Wind Farm, one of my favourite places in Albany, the scenery is beautiful and the paths are really well maintained.  You can stand right under one of the turbines and marvel at its power and listen to the deep and powerful "whomph" as it rotates.  Not to mention the fact that it supplies Albany with 85% of its power, yay for green energy!
 Above we have Angie and Andy, and below are Marty and Judy coming up the path.  It was lovely to see you all :-)
 Other visitors were of the unexpected kind.  For a few days we had these two rams wandering around, in and out of our place.  I think they live on top of the hill and take advantage of old, broken down fences to have a bit of an explore. 
 And of course we have our residents who we love dearly.  Here is Patience curled up on the grass outside the front door, enjoying the last rays of sun.  It's like having a pet dog :-)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Of Timber And Wool

As I mentioned last blog post, I was about to start stripping corn kernels off the cobs and getting it into the freezer, to give us plenty of yummy corn for cooking when the growing season finishes soon.  To date I've frozen about six kilos of kernels!!
Now the glut of tomatoes is descending upon us.  It is always a surprise to me how much later tomatoes ripen in Albany compared to Perth.  If we were lucky in Perth, Steve would manage to get the first of the ripening tomatoes for Christmas, but here it's well into February.  No matter, as long as we have some, nothing nicer than home grown tomatoes.  I'm revving up to cook a huge batch of Ragu Bolognese for the freezer this week, then it will be onto making tomato sauce.  We made 2 bottles of sauce last year for a test run, it was really nice, so I'll make a lot more this year.
The little birds still abound in the back garden, with their glorious melodies tinkling in through the flyscreen door.  It's interesting, if you listen to your garden you get to know what's going on.  The other day the little birds suddenly went ballistic, shrieking loudly and dancing around very agitated.  When I looked out the door who did I see but Voldemort the black skink doing his rounds.  He has taken to living under the settee that's outside next to the front door, and likes to circumvent the house a few times a day to see what's around to eat. 
This is the original Voldemort, he's bigger than Voldemort The Younger who seems to spend most of his time in the shed.  He looks quite stripey at the moment although he is a black skink, interesting.  He's about half a metre long and if he wiggles when under the settee and makes a noise, can scare the crap out of you!  We are rather fond of both Voldemorts actually.
I've been busy crocheting this and that.  I posted these off to my granddaughters, they are tiara headbands.
And I finally managed to create a decent beanie!  I've had a few failures over the years.  I like the look of knitted, ribbed beanies, but, apart from socks, I don't knit, so I've been on the hunt for a crocheted beanie that looked ribbed.  I was pleased to find this pattern, Steve likes it, it fits, so I am satisfied.  :-)
I changed the pattern a wee bit though, this beanie is made sideways, then you seam it to make the tube.  The pattern did a circle of crochet to fill the hole in the top that I didn't like the look of, so I closed it by doing a row of crochet in every second stitch, then picking up a loop of all of those stitches, then pulling them all through another loop, pulling it tight to draw it closed.  I much prefer this, and when being worn, the gather is barely noticeable.  I suppose too that if you added a pompom it would be invisible.  Anyway, I made a beanie, it looks like a beanie, it fits like a beanie, so yay me!
This was a beanie effort I made about ten years ago.  As you can see I had major issues with sizing ha ha ha, so that fail beanie has been used as nice little bowl every since.  You live and learn hey. :-)
Steve's coffee table is progressing.  He has started putting the legs together in a frame to sit under the table top.  This is the shape it will be, he has yet to finish the surfacing of the legs and connecting them to the top, but you get the idea.  Isn't is beautiful! 
Here's the comparison of size between the table he making versus the coffee table he currently has next to his chair.  He wanted a smaller table and his new one will fit the bill nicely.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pocketfuls Of Yum

My word the vegie patch is magic at present, we are blessed with much yummy stuff!  We have sweetcorn coming out of our ears (ha ha) so today I'm going to start freezing some for later in the year.  After a few years of trials, I find the best way to freeze it is to strips the kernels of corn off the cobs and freeze in baggies.  There's nothing I like better than packages of our produce tucked away in the freezer. :-)
 This photo made me laugh, this is what you do when you forget to take a container with you, random veggies stuffied into pockets!  He's looking rather wild and grizzled my dear hubby xx
 I popped over next door, saying hello to the menagerie.  These two Miniature Horse foals, Rosie snoring on the ground, and Barnaby having breakfast, are the ones that were born a few weeks ago, they are growing quickly and so cute.
The reason for my visit was to say hello to the new arrival.  Isn't she gorgeous!  She is the smallest so far, only 15 inches from ground to where her neck meets her back, called the withers.  She was having trouble working out what to do with her tongue, very cute.
We have loads of roos around, they appreciate the bit of green grass we have growing.  I so enjoy them.  We currently have four mums with newly out of the pouch joeys, always a delight.  Nature takes its course though, a few days ago I noticed one was missing, and after a walk around I found her body, a sad discovery.  I suppose this has to happen though otherwise there would be a population explosion.
And we are still being delighted by the Spendid wrens bouncing around in the back garden. 

We used to have a Quenda (Southern Brown Bandicoot) that lived here, we called him Stumpy as most of his tail was missing.  Every evening he used to circumnavigate our house, looking for food.  Our friend Tony would remember Stumpy, we were sitting out the front one evening when Stumpy casually wandered between Tony's feet!  We haven't seen him for about a year, I am presuming he died of old age, as he'd been around for maybe four years.  Anyway, the point of my story is that we toddled into town the other day and decided to have a walk along the Boardwalk at Middleton Beach, which is picturesque and delightful.  There are many black skinks to see, who like to sun themselves on the warm path, but we were also thrilled to see this tiny little Quenda, busily digging, and couldn't have cared less about us!

I've been immersed in crochet, some of it is Secret Squirrel stuff and cannot be mentioned, but here's a photo I like, I'm adding a few more rows to Steve's scrap lap blanket, as it's not really big enough.  And I have an able fluffy supervisor keeping track of things. :-) Are you Perth people amazed that I have a blanket on me in summer!  We have had a very comfortable summer here in Albany, I love not being baked til crispy, it was one of the main reasons we left Perth!
Steve has been busy in the shed.  He is trying to make himself a small coffee table to go beside his big red chair.  He selected some rough pieces of beautiful sheoak - just look at the patterns in the grain, then he's spent ages sanding them down, then ages getting his join just so, and now he's working on oiling the top, sanding, oiling, sanding, oiling, it takes time and patience.  This is the top at present, sitting atop his current coffee table strewn with many many remote controls!  He's even considering making a small box along one end of his new coffee table to house the remotes, good idea methinks.
Well, it's time to start stripping down some corn for the freezer, so bye bye for now! :-)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tweet Tweet Tweet

As I sit here at table, I can see out into the back garden.  The sliding glass door is wide open and the sounds of the wrens outside is amazing, it's as if I'm sitting in an aviary!  There are dozens of Splendid wrens, the beautiful blue boys, the plainer females, and hordes of youngsters that are just starting to colour up.  I'm so happy that the garden I've planted is a suitable habitat for them, it's such a pleasure to listen to them and watch them bouncing around looking for food.  The Fairy wrens are around too, and boy oh boy if the two different types meet then there is lots of shrieking and chasing!
 The Western Spinebills also spend a lot of time in the back garden, this is a female, she doesn't have quite the striking chestnut colour on her face like her male counterpart.  I was interested to note in this photo that she has her tongue poking out!  I was thinking how extraordinarily long her beak looked, then realised that half the length is her tongue.  She enjoys feeding from the nectar inside these Cuphea flowers, busily poking that long tongue inside the long tubes to get at the sweetness.
 My Red Flowering Gum has decided to bless me with a few flowers this year, gosh it's been a slow tree to establish.  It's worth the wait though, they are so lovely.
 I love these, Melaleuca nesophilia, or Nessie for short.  They are covered in flowers at the moment and the bees are very happy about it.
 The back garden is looking pretty good for late summer.  The drip system for irrigating with bore water has been very successful.  Most of the plants are growing well and tolerating the salt in the bore water with this method, so it was worth the work to put it in.
 There is a bank alongside where we park our cars that is just sand and a bit of grass, it's the edge of the big sandpad that was done when the house was built.  Not very pretty and for a while now I have had the idea of an agapanthus bank.  My friend Ruth, who has loads of agapanthus, very kindly let me come and help her dig up some clumps to thin hers out a bit, and so I prepared the ground, planted them and mulched them.  I cut all the leaves off down to a few inches, and I'm very pleased to see new growth starting to happen after only a couple of weeks.  I think they will look lovely, plus they'll stabilise the slope.
 Steve has been busy chainsawing some of the big pieces of tree that we had cut down a few months ago.
 Here's Split and her joey in the dry dry paddock, crossing fingers that it rains soon.  She is so named because her right ear has a big split in it.  Joey is unnamed for now as I'm still trying to work out the sex.  It's going to be tricky with joey names this year, as the four joeys that are around are all completely unmarked, no-one has a handy white blaze on their face to make them recognisable!
 Here is Twinkle.  Notice the concrete slab that is sitting diagonally across the water container?  That's to stop the ducks from bathing in it!  They have two other, much larger containers to bathe in, but for some reason they like using the little one.  Contrary creatures :-)
 And here is, umm, Jacinta or Ivy, I can't remember!  Riley and Stevie named them and all I remember is that Twinkle had the longest tail.  We lost the third one last week, she's been up and down for a few weeks so it wasn't unexpected. 
 And here are Spuddles and Sparkles.  They are moulting like crazy at present so there are feathers everywhere!  So they've also gone off the lay, which is fine as we are getting a chicken egg a day now, after a month of no chicken eggs.  It's nice to get one or the other or both, just to keep it ticking over.
 These are the first plums we've grown, they are Italian Sugar Plums.  They aren't terribly sweet as we picked them too early, we were stressing out that the green parrots were going to beat us to them! :-)  So we've had a little bit of fruit from half the stone fruit trees which is good, we were expecting nothing after the terrible problems with leaf curl this year.  There are loads of small apples on the trees plus a few pears so in a month or two they should start enlarging and ripening, so that's something to look forward to!
The big excitement is that the sweetcorn is just about ready.  This is the first cob, we had it for dinner last night with roast pork, and it was delicious.  Steve planted 90 sweetcorn seeds and I think 85 of them grew, amazing!  So we are about to be drowning in about 180 cobs of corn, fabulous!
 So, it's birds, plants, kangaroos and food as per usual, it's a good life :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Shiny Branches and Blue Boys

With the onset of a touch of warmer weather, there are few things ripening up in the vegie patch and orchard.  This was the harvest the other morning, one of eight apricots (yum!), an egg and many many Lebanese cucumbers, yahoo!  These cucumbers are so nice straight off the vine, crunchy with a hint of sweetness.
 As we had a horde ripen all in one go, it was pickle time!
 I make a cucumber freezer pickle.  Just a simple pickle, sweetened vinegar with a bit of turmeric, chopped onion and mustard seed, but what's good about it is that you can freeze it in small pots, and when you defrost it and keep it in the fridge for a week or two, it is still quite crunchy.  Anyway it's a great way to preserve a glut of cucumbers.
 Then it was the beetroot's turn.  There were some monsters under the ground!  A good scrub then wrap them in alfoil and bake in the oven for an hour or so.  When cool the skin just slides right off.
Then it's time to slice them thinly and pop into sterilised jars and top with sweeted, spiced vinegar.
 Seven huge jars of pickled beetroot, that will keep us going for the year I think.  There are still smaller beetroot growing in the vegie patch, I'll use those grated raw on top of salads, yummo!
 With the warm weather, the wrens are everywhere, including the beautiful Splendid wrens, the males in full, glorious coloured plumage.  I had spray painted a big branch silver and used it as a Christmas tree of sorts.  Now Christmas is over I just shoved it in the ground out the back, and this beautiful wren obviously considers this shiny branch befitting to his gorgeous self, and has taken to sitting in it, singing his little heart out.
 Silver and blue, lovely :-)
 I love that the roos come right up to the house, they are seeking out our greener grass more and more as the summer progresses.  I love seeing them and the new joeys learning to hop and to eat grass.  :-)
There has been much excitement next door at our neighbour's place.  Two of Claire's four minature mares have had foals, within 24 hours of each other.  Aren't they adorable, and so tiny!!  Barnaby is on the left and Rosey is on the right.
 You can get a better idea of the tiny size of Barnaby in this photo, little weeny boy!
 I have finished the bag I was making last week, after lots of swearing and sewing machine hissy fits and broken needles.  It has many many pockets which were a pain to make but I now realise, after filling it with my crochet bits and pieces, that it is in fact a very useful bag.
 Ta-dum! One finished bag with 4 outer pockets and three inner pockets.  Thanks for the help Ruth!
 Speaking of crochet, this is where I am at with my Mandala Madness.  I am liking it more and more with every layer, it gets more complex colourwise and I am learning so many new stitches and techniques, each layer is different so it keeps me interested.  I'm just starting Part 5, ten more parts to go!
 Michelle is here for a visit and she got into the crochet thing in this house too.  She whipped herself up this lovely cowl, is making a second one and is doing a bit of cross stitch too.  That's my girl!  xx
 I thought this was interesting, a timeline of Mandala Madness, at the end of Part 1, then the end of Part 2, then the end of Part 3, then the end of Part 4, left to right, top to bottom.  Isn't it amazing how it changes with the different colours.  A little ray of sunshine :-)