Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Tamarillo Thief

Michelle popped down for a visit a couple of weeks ago and she brought a cool little fisheye lens that she can attach to the back of her phone for taking photos.  She kindly allowed me to purloin some shots for the blog.  Aren't they great!
 I love the different way it highlights flowers, and the Magic Faraway Tree looks spectacular.  You can see how dry and brown the ground is under the trees.
 The nosy chicken had to stick its beak in for a look too.  :-)
 A few years ago I attempted to make Michelle a moss garden terrarium.  It was gorgeous, moss mounds, pebbles and Steve made a cute Hobbit door out of wood.  It didn't last very long unfortunately, the whole thing was gobbled up by a white fungi.  So, this visit, Michelle brought it down with her and we cleaned it out and had a go at redoing it.  We added a piece of Maidenhair fern for a tree too.  M reports that it has started to get a bit of white fluff growing again, she's opened the top up to try and dry it out a bit and see if that helps.  It's pretty though isn't it.
 Here are Michelle and Steve at Cosy Corner.
 And Steve and moi there too, we went for a little walk on a pleasant, sunny day.
Does anyone remember these?  They are Chunder Buns, a relic of the seventies.  Grated cheese, chopped celery and tomato sauce mixed together, dumped on halves of a bread roll then popped in the oven til melted.  Very yum.
 Here is the cat.  As the weather is cooling off he is constantly looking for warm places to nap.  He'll be very pleased when we start lighting the fire, which wont be far off now.
 This is what the cat has been getting up to in the wee small hours.  I picked a dozen tamarillos from my tree and dumped them in the fruit bowl.  Neo cannot resist fruit that had a stem attached, and in the dead of night will sneak up on the benchtop, purloin said fruit, then amuse himself batting it around the floor. 
 This is the last of the harvest from the vegie patch.  We are thrilled with the haul of Butternut pumpkins, first time we've grown them.  I made a batch of soup yesterday, it was lovely.  I have frozen some of the corn, I've been slack this time and just frozen them whole rather than stripping the kernels off the cobs.  It will be interesting to see how they are when defrosted and cooked.
 I finally made a start on dehydrating apple slices.  This was a small experimental batch, leaving the skin on.  I wont do that again, the skin goes a bit tough.  Since then I've done another couple of batches with the skin off, much better. 
 On the reptilian front, here is Voldemort who has temporarily taken up residence in the woodpile in the shed.  There are at least 3 big Voldemorts in the woodpile, and we have baby Voldemorts!  Very exciting!  There are three tiny little ones, like mini replicas of their parents, as long as a finger and not even as thick as a pencil.  So cute, and even cuter is that they can sometimes be seen riding on the big ones' backs....I am trying very hard to get a photo of that, not yet though, the babies are very skittish.
 If you look closely mid photo, you can just see the head of a baby Voldemort peeking out from behind the wood.  It is trying to get to the chopped grapes I've put on top, but it's not quite brave enough to come out while I'm there.  I need the parent and child photo to give you an idea of the size difference....watch this space!
 My back garden is very overdue for a big prune, and yesterday I did a bit to start.  The birds have finished nesting now so I figured it's time to get on with it  Look what I found when I chopped down a big shrub near the back door.  At first glance it looked like a mound of dried grass in the fork of the shrub, about half a metre off the ground....
 but when I gently stretched open the tiny hole in the side, the wonder and technical brilliance of the (empty) nest became apparent.  Inside it is soft and watertight, coated with various fluffy bits that feel almost like they've been felted, it was very thick and strong and cosy in there.  I am pretty sure this the nest of the Splendid Wren.
 Here's one of the females peeking at me.  Clever little girl she is to make something so amazing.  No wonder she raised four fine children.
 I am very excited to see this bird again.  It's a White Robin, there were three checking out the back garden last week, and it's the first time I've seen them for about four years.  They are quite a bit bigger than the Splendid wrens and a lot shyer.  I hope they stay around.
 These are lovely birds too, the Western Spinebill, that chestnut colour around his chest is just lovely.  He is a nectar feeder, he's sitting on my Abutilon shrub where he feeds often,
 but he will be pleased too that the Bottlebrush are coming into flower now as well.
 For our records, this is the tank water level on April 1st.  It's gone down since then, gosh we are having a dry autumn although we've had a few little showers here and there, not enough to soak in but enough to green the grass a touch.  The kangaroos will be pleased. 
Until next time.... xx

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Goddamn Varmints!

Do you remember that lovely rockmelon from last time, that complete, untouched rockmelon.  Well.  Look at it now.  Bloody goddamn varmints, it's completely hollow!
So I picked the final one, I hope it's ripe enough to eat.  I also harvested the four luscious quinces before anything ate those! 
I did the first apple harvest, the crisper in the bottom of the fridge is now full to the brim with these beauties.  We still have heaps on the trees, I'm planning on dehydrating lots of sliced apples next week, yum yum yum.
This, in my opinion, is our very best apple tree, the Red Fuji.  Really really nice fruit.
These are the Cox's Orange Pippins, as you can see they are a completely different skin colour to the Fujis.  They have a nice flavour too but they are not as crisp as the Fujis and I love a really crisp, sweet apple.  We haven't touched the Granny Smiths yet, probably next week.  The 6 kilos of apples in the bucket will keep us going for a while :-)
I am waiting somewhat impatiently for these to turn orange, these are Fuyu Persimmons and I think they are my absolutely most favourite fruit. 
Isn't the blossom on this Dwarf Lilly Pilly pretty, the bees love it.
The agapanthus I salvaged from my good buddy Ruth are growing nicely.  They are planted along the right edge of the gravel area where we park our cars.  The ground drops away there and created a small bank, so I'm hoping the strong root system of the aggies will stabilise the bank nicely.
My friends Ruth, Lesley and I were given a single African Violet leaf stuck in a small pot of potting mix by our mutual friend Ellen, who has some beautiful specimens at her house.  I am most proud to present my happily growing and now flowering baby African Violet, all from a single leaf!
This time of year we see and hear a lot of the huge Black Cockatoos, as the Marris and Jarrah are setting seed, they sit high in the trees and crack open the nut.
These are Red Tailed Black Cockatoos, the one above is a male because the red on him is a solid colour.
And these two, who have stripey red are apparently either female or juvenile.  I only learned that the other day.  Gorgeous birds.  We get a lot of the White Tailed Baudin's Cockatoos as well, but they more often fly over our place rather than land in our trees and feed like the Reds do.
Steve has been a busy busy boy giving his shed a big spring clean.  It's been a mammoth task for him and there is still a way to go, but this part looks very spick and span.  We both keep getting surprised when we go into the shed!
He's finished the hoppers of medium sized wood for the fire.  We haven't quite got to cranking up the fire in the house yet, but I suspect it wont be long, there is a definite chill descending in the evenings now.
This is Steve's new toy, he saved up his Christmas and Birthday money and bought it.  Apparently it is called a 'thicknesser'.  It's a doodad that you bung a piece of wonky timber in the back, and it comes out the front as smooth as a baby's bum. He is happy :-)
I got stuck into cleaning out the chook shed, supervised by a couple of the girls.  The apple trees now have a lovely load of chook poo flavoured hay surrounding them, and because those trees are still under nets, it means the chooks can't get at it and strew it everywhere.  We love having the chooks and ducks in the orchard, they keep bugs to a minimum,  but the chooks are buggers for digging up around the bases of the trees and kicking mulch all over the place. 
There we are, a spiffy clean chook shed.  You will note that there are two perfectly good nesting boxes screwed to the wall that the original chooks used to use all the time.  This lot refuse to have a bar of them and like to lay their eggs at ground level.  Finally, by accident, I discovered that they love old washing baskets with one end cut out.  Whatever floats their boat :-)
And here is their new treadle feeder.  They hate it.  It make a big clanking noise when the top shuts after they step off the treadle, and it scares the crap out of them.  I am told they will get used to it, and for now I have it in the locked open position during the day and I close it at night.  The good thing though is that the galahs aren't nicking any food out of it. 
We used to have one jump over the fence, escapee, intrepid explorer chicken, then two, then three, so now we leave the orchard gate open a titch so the fourth one, who obviously hasn't done her wing muscle exercises and can't get up and over, can be with her friends.  My goodness they have become bush chickens!  We have no idea where they are most of the day, and late afternoon they wander out of whatever wide roaming area they have discovered that day.  They are very good at following me back to the orchard when they see me though, I feel like the Pied Piper!
And they still love hanging out with the kangaroos!
 I haven't talked much about vegies recently, most of our vegies are finished or nearly so.  We are still picking the last of the cucumber, corn, pumpkin, beans and potatoes.  I just had to show you a photo of our fabulous pigout homegrown vegie dinner.  That's our roast potatoes and pumpkin, our boiled beans, corn and carrots, our roast garlic, along with a bit of roast beef and gravy.  Deeeeeelicious!!
Here's yesterday's photo of Voldemort eating breakfast.  For a change he had a feast of cheese and grapes which he enjoyed very much. 
We are having a lovely Easter break enjoying the company of Paul and Sam, so good to see you both xx
Until next time xx

Monday, 19 March 2018

Waiting For The Turning Of The Season

I was bringing some shopping in from the car this morning, when Voldemort popped out from under the settee and looked at me expectantly.  "Just a minute Voldy, I'll be right back!"
 So I sat down on the grass 2 metres away and tossed pieces of banana to him.  "Is this for me?  It looks delicious, do you mind if I try some?"
 "Be my guest Voldy, enjoy"  And he did, about six pieces, well five actually as one of the magpies rushed over and nicked a piece!
 See this giant wood pile inside the shed?  This is what Steve has been busy doing for ages, getting all our winter wood ready and this time he is storing most of  it in the shed to keep it dry.  He has hoppers under the shed verandah but it still gets damp from the rain mist, so he's filled the hoppers and the corner of the shed, so depending on the weather, we'll have dry wood from one or both locations.  Steve reported the other day that he watched Voldemort from the settee wander over to the shed and had lots of fun 'playing' with another, bigger, blacker Voldemort in the new woodpile.  We don't know who is male and who is female, but it would seem that more baby Voldemorts may be on the cards. :-)
 There are lots of jobs awaiting the turn of season.  I have a trolley full of struck cuttings that are awaiting planting into the garden, but I'm waiting for the rains to start as it's pointless planting them into the ground now, it's so hard and dry.  I have a huge pruning list too, but I am again waiting until it cools down plus also making quite sure that the little birds have finished nesting.  I would hate to uncover a nest when pruning, so it's a good excuse to wait.
 Things are starting to die down in the vegie patch, the pumpkin leaves are dying off and behold, underneath we can see the extent of our fabulous Butternut pumpkin crop.  You have no idea how thrilled I am about this, for years now I've tried to grow these, I can grow other pumpkin varieties, but Butternuts are my favourite and up until now they have stubbornly refused to grow.  This year however, we have about a dozen good sized pumpkins.  That should keep us going for a while.  We cut one the other night and had it mashed and it was sensational!
 The almond tree has struggled at the end of the season as I mentioned last post.  I harvested everything I could see the other day.  The grey ones are the outer coating, the brown ones are the husk and the almonds are within. The almonds that are healthy are lovely, fat and delicious, but a lot of them have dried out and withered.  I'll have to do some more research on this as I really really want to grow almonds.  Anyway, it's been very nice to sample the couple of dozen edible ones.  :-)
 We are guarding this  and one other rockmelon.  As I mentioned before, two ripe ones were eaten by something, so we picked one but it was far from ripe, so we are leaving this one to ripen and woe betide anything that has its eye on it! 
 This is the third and last area of sweetcorn, Steve stagger planted this year so it was spaced out instead of us having heaps and heaps all at once.  It's worked well and we are enjoying eating it fresh instead of me freezing it all because there was too much to manage.  Yum!
 I'm a bit excited about this.  In my back garden is a tiny tree, planted there for its beautiful autumn foliage but also for its fruit.  This is a quince.  There are four on the tree and they are almost ripe, and I say this quietly, no wildlife have discovered them.  Mind you, a quince is disgusting to eat as is, they have to be stewed and then they are wonderful.  Looking forward to picking these. 
 The orchard is quiet at present, the summer fruit has finished but the apples are about to start.  We tried a Red Fuji and a Cox's Orange Pippin a couple of days ago, not bad but not quite there.  In the meantime the lemons are in abundance and there are heaps of limes, most not quite ready but we are finding a few to squeeze into soda water with ice....our favourite drink while we continue the long diet haul.
 The kangaroos are constantly searching for food in the dry dry bush, then they spend their afternoons lazing in the sun.  I rather like this family shot, that's Chevie on the left, behind her is Growler with her big joey in pouch, her current boyfriend Julius, Growler's daughter Ra is front right, and I'm not sure which two are in the centre.
 Patience in the foreground, Nash sound asleep and Rabbit in the background.  These three like to snooze along the outer side of the fence of our back garden.
 The front grass area is a little greener as we water it occasionally, so the roos like to graze there, helped along by the galahs and the two intrepid chickens.
 The chooks get right up close and personal, here is one chatting to Elsa with her joey.
 My big job coming up is to clean out the chook house.  I do this twice a year.  I use what is called a deep litter method, meaning rather than a thin layer of straw on the floor that gets covered in chook poo and removed and changed regularly, the deep litter method means you start with a thin layer on the floor, then as that gets soiled, you add another layer of straw and so on, so by the time I clean it out, it is a thick pile of layered straw and mostly rotted down chook poo, so I can then safely put the older layers straight around the fruit trees as a nutritious mulch, and the fresher layers go on the compost pile. 
 We bought two compressed bales of barley straw today in readiness.  I've never seen barley straw compressed like this, it's a little dearer to buy but it's worth it for the lack of mess in the boot of the car....bales of hay and straw scatter themselves everywhere in the car!
 We are awaiting a 'treadle feeder' for the chooks, it's a large feeder with a lid and a big treadle along the front of it, which the chooks and ducks have to stand on for the lid to open to access the food.  Up to now I feed the chooks daily in open bowls in their yard, and it seems that we end up feeding about 40 galahs as well, not to mention intrepid rodents.  I get rather frustrated after lots of effort to completely enclose the chook yard, including netting above, to find that the galahs rip holes in it and wriggle through to gorge themselves on chook food.  As far as I know galahs are too small to work the treadle feeder, so once our hens and ducks have got the hang of it, I hope it helps to alleviate the problem. 
 The chooks are naughty too, they will insist on digging up the edges of their yard, gradually lowering the soil level, which ends up creating holes at ground level for the rodents to sneak in through...it is rodent time of year at present, I've spotted a few in the chookyard at dusk, and boy do they like eating our tomatoes, tidily leaving the skins in a neat little pile on the ground in the vegie patch.  Originally the soil level in the chook yard was where the wire is, but they've dug down so far that they've exposed the wood I dug into the ground to stop things burrowing in.  So an overhaul is needed.  It's a shame we dont have rocks on our property, they would be very handy, so I might get hold of some old bricks from somewhere to discourage them.  When I dig the sand out of the creek next month, I might get Steve to bring that up to the chook yard in the trailer, and top it up a bit. 
 These are the pink and grey thieving ratbags!  They are very beautiful and we do like them but bloody hell when we are besieged by them, the noise is deafening.  Normally the numbers start to dwindle towards winter thank goodness. 
 I will never tire of these divine little creatures though, god I love wrens.  These are female Splendid wrens, with their blue tails and orange beaks.  There are loads in the back garden.
 Now this might interest you.  This is a male Splendid wren, you know, the ones who are totally brilliant blue.  Well, this is a male after the breeding season, (they breed twice a year)  they lose most of their blue colouring.  So they look a lot like the females with a blue tail, but they keep a little of the blue on their wings too.  It's an amazing difference between this and the full blue breeding plumage hey.
 We are starting to see a few more of the RedWing Fairy wrens in the back garden now, they certainly play second fiddle to the Splendids, but as the Splendids have finished breeding they are not so rampant in their search for food, which gives the RedWings a turn.  This is a male, another beautiful little bird.
 On the home front, I have been crocheting for the last six weeks to finish a SECRET thing, more will be revealed in a couple of months. 
I am also trying to get myself back into drawing and watercolour since the workshop I did back in January.  It scares me you know, and you would laugh if you'd watched me over the past weeks, busying myself with stocking up on supplies, poring over instructional webpages, reading how to paint and draw books, but not actually picking up a flippin pencil or paintbrush.  I'm dancing around actually doing it.  I will show you the one thing I've actually plucked up the courage to have a go at, and I'm fairly pleased with it.  Following step by step instruction in a watercolour book, I painted this...
Until next time xx