Wednesday, 27 March 2013

No Walking Required

We've had more visitors this week, this time we had the pleasure of the company of my dear friend Angie and her cousin Pauline who was visiting from the UK.  We had a great few days and we spent one of them doing the touristy viewy type things that are so lovely round here.  Here are Pauline, left, and Angie, right, at the Middleton lookout.  The views over the water are wonderful here.
A visit to the wonderful Wind Farm was obligatory, and the scenery was as magnificent as always.  I never tire of the wonder and power of these turbines.
The Salmon Holes were looking mighty fine too.  There were a lot of people fishing on the beach, and one fool fishing on the sloping rocks that take lives with monotonous regularity.  We noticed that he had a rope around his waist but no idea what he was tied onto.  Anyway, I hope he is still alive and well.
We were kindly treated to a lovely lunch by our visitors, and we chose Willoughby Winery/Boston Brewery near Denmark, which is a fabulous place for lunch with a terrific atmosphere.  Photo courtesy of Angie.  It was lovely to have to you to stay ladies.  :-)
Once our visitors had left I put my mind back to a pressing task.  I spent the morning creating a makeshift fence using all our scrap wire, in order to protect the native plants I planted last year from the kangaroos.  Our furry friends have suddenly decided that they would much rather nosh on acacia and grevillea bushes instead of grass, and what were once the beginnings of respectable looking shrubs are now tattered mere sticks.  Enough is enough!
Later in the day....
note the mournful expression of the roo, perplexed as to the sudden obstacle in the way of her favourite snack.  Eat the grass girl!
Speaking of roos, today was idleness day, with about 10 roos lounging around down the hill for most of the day.  They look rather contented don't you think.
We took Jimmitu out for a drive, along the Torbay Inlet track onto Mutton Bird Beach.  Boy the sand is deep in parts of that beach, and all squeaky when you drive on it.  We made it through though, and Steve is enjoying the fact that no walking is required to go fishing.  Alas there were also no fish but it was a nice outing nonetheless.
As Jimmitu has now had the 1000km service and all is well, we finally went and bought a trailer.  It is already proving its worth and usefulness.  Our inaugural use was to transport 10 big bags of horse poo for the vegie patch, yeehar!
Steve has been busy cleaning up the vegie garden and digging in the horse poo and other goodies, all ready for planting out the autumn seedlings.
My experimental above-ground planting of sweet potatoes seems to be going okay, there is certainly plenty of leaf growth anyway, time will tell if there is anything below the surface.  They will need to grow for another couple of months so I shall continue with water, compost and kind words in the hope that the plants give forth many kilos of yummy sweet potatoes.
I mentioned a while back that we planted the wrong fennel last spring, we wanted the bulb fennel but the seedlings ended up being the herb fennel, and they grew into monstrous plants.  A couple of weeks ago I cut all the seed heads off and stuffed them into a pillow slip that I hung in the shed, to let the seeds dry out.  It is now time to start separating the seeds from the plant matter, which I discovered takes a bit of effort.  They don't just fall off, they have to be manhandled!  So I sat on the terrace, rubbing the seed heads between my hands to coax the seeds off.  I have half a large jar and I've barely scratched the surface!  There are trillions of fennel seeds to be dealt with!  I'm not quite sure if I should have picked the seed heads while the seeds were still green, or wait until they turn brown, I must look it up.  There are some of each.
Steve cooked a lovely lunch today, King George Whiting and Sweep with home grown potato salad (flavoured with fennel seeds ha ha ha), home grown snow peas and broad beans from the freezer, and locally grown sweetcorn.  It was very very nice.
And to finish, another gorgeous autumn sunset.  Ahhh....

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Thank Goodness For A Blunt Spade

We've just waved goodbye to our friends Mel and Sheila who have spent 3 days with us, it was lovely to have you both to stay.  The boys went on futile expeditions to catch huge fish, alas, only littlies around.  Sheila and I relaxed and enjoyed the gentler craft arts.  Sheila is an amazing knitter who churns out an unbelievable amount of beautiful work.  We also had fun playing Trivial Pursuit that we dusted off after putting it away about 15 years ago.  We also christened the Boules set that Michelle kindly gave us for Christmas, good fun!
I dragged out my crochet that has been on the go on and off for about 5 years.  The pattern is called a Babette blanket, loads of crocheted squares with a gazillion colour changes and subsequent gazillion little tails of wool to weave in, and the squares vary in size so it gets fitted together like a jigsaw.  You are meant to just sew the squares together but I decided to crochet them together instead, my reasoning being twofold.  Firstly I went a bit crazy with choosing colours, it's a VERY multicoloured blankie, so I figured if the join between the square were visible and all the same colour it would draw all the colours together.  Secondly I love textured surfaces and I like the idea of a ridged seam between each square, so single crochet stitch does just that.  So you snuggle under this with the underside nice and smooth, but have loads of little ridges on the surface that you can fiddle with idly whilst watching tellie.  That is the plan anyway, and it is a while away yet as it only the size of a bathmat so far!
I'm still wading through curtain making at present, but having a tools down, instead I thought I'd use my machine for something a bit more interesting.  Our little granddaughters are coming down here for Easter so I thought I'd make them something pretty.  So, they now have a cushion each.  I never use pink in my own sewing so it was actually a wee bit challenging for my mind to have to use it!  I hope they like them.
I'm learning something new at my embroidery group.  This is called Portuguese Whitework.  Traditionally you stitch with white threads on white linen but we are a liberated group and we just chose whatever.  I went for beige.  We are just making something tiny, this will be a little Christmas tree decoration so I plan to put red fabric behind it to show through in the holes.  Although tiny, this piece is a real learning curve for me, never before have I done cutting and wrapping.  Basically you buy the most expensive piece of linen you can find, tack a square border around your work area, then satin stitch two sides of each corner, then get your meanest, sharpest little pair of scissors and cut the linen threads going in one direction between each corner and pull them out!  Then using your decorative thread, you wrap the remaining linen threads that are only going in one direction, in groups of six, to make little bars all the way along from corner to corner.  And the linen doesn't fall apart, amazing!  The middle section has five buttonhole eyelets and a circular design comprised entirely of  bullion knots that I am only halfway through.  It is amazing how long something this tiny is taking, and my brain is tired out afterwards with concentrating, but it's fun. 

Actually you would laugh if you had cast your eye into our group last week when we had to tack our square, which involved counting threads to get it placed correctly.  38 count linen is very very fine, those threads and holes are minute, and you should have seen us all, adorned with every visual aid you could imagine, from glasses, to giant magnifying glasses, to contraptions strapped to our head with pull down magnifiers and spotlights, just so we ageing beauties could see the holes in the linen!  :-)
That was my inside goings on, but I also undertook a big outside mission.  This is our big house water tank, that sits nestled into the hillside below our house.  So behind the tank the ground  is well over a metre above and being sandy is not very stable, so rather than it burying our tank, it needed stabilising.  I took over this task as I wanted to do it using only things lying around here that were worthless, it was my mission is frugality.  :-)  I had to do this halfway around the 25 metre perimeter of the tank - mega digging!! 
And here we have the result that took me about a week.  I used all the cutoff bits of the Hardieboard our house is cladded with, with bamboo stakes to support them.  It is entirely possible that we may see avalanches and collapses but I am happy to do repairs, and remind people not to walk near the edges of the terraces!
I even made some makeshift steps using some the wood from when Steve chainsawed up the trees that were felled to make room for our house.  I might say that Steve has muttered under his breath about this a bit, he is very possessive about all his wood, but he begrudgingly conceded that I did a reasonable job and the steps are stable, and I promised him that if we ever run out of wood (I don't THINK so!) then he can burn my steps, if it meant he wasn't to freeze to death.  :-)
My plan was to plant the first two levels with plants with good strong roots, to help stabilise the terracing.  So the lowest level is planted with comfrey, a leafy herb that I use a lot - it is a brilliant compost activator and make a great tea to feed plants.  You bung a great heap of leaves into a lidded container(lidded because it STINKS!!), fill it with water and leave if for some weeks to rot down.  Then you use the resulting tea diluted as a mineral tonic drink for other plants.  Comfrey has a strong root system, not one that spreads for miles and becomes invasive, just straight down pretty much.  Ideal for what I wanted, plus it will give me huge amounts of leaves for  composting, great.  The second tier is the middle sized agapanthus, many thanks to my dear friend Ruth for donating  some huge clumps of this that Steve chopped up into smaller chunks for me.  As we all know, agapanthus have good strong roots too, plus agapanthus is known as a good fire resistant/fire break plant.  I like growing plants for multiple uses, so these two please me.  The top terrace and the humped bed above that I am going to use for natives for screening and for bringing in the nectar feeding birds.  So things like bottlebrush, grevillea and kunzea.  I have loads of tiny natives in pots that I've bought over the last year, so I'm looking forward to fossicking through them to decide what to plant.
I used more logs at the side of the tank where all the pipes enter and exit, to have a visual reminder of where they are.  I also, later on, decided to scatter a line of small rocks along the few metres where the water pipe to our house is at ground level, like that because Steve has yet to run another line off from the t-piece under the green box -  that's for reticulating the orchard later on.  Picture this, I'd just finished the entire terrace with no dramas, with this area around the water pipe being the grand finale.  Steve came over to see what I'd done and as I chatted to him I turned to ram my spade into the ground so I didn't have to hold it.  But it didn't go in.  It hit something.  Oh.  Oops.  See that black pipe there, that's the pipe that takes water from the tank to our entire house.  And it now has a little cut in it, from the stupid woman with the spade.  You should have seen the look on Steve's face when I did it, incredulous he was.  :-)  Thankfully as I am merely a puny girl, the cut in the pipe has not actually broken through, tis a flesh wound only.  Those little rocks are my visual reminder not to do it again!
Anyway, all the hard slog digging work is done and I am now left with the pleasurable part of choosing and planting the natives to go around the top.  All my pot plants are crammed into a small fenced area so it's easy to water them and they are protected from kangaroos.  Over the next couple of days I'm looking forward to sorting through them all to find what I'm looking for.  I thought I'd show you a photo of this lovely plant that is destined for my back kitchen garden later on.  Isn't it pretty, it's pineapple sage, it smells divine and the birds love it.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

In The Company Of A Superstar

We have had a birthday boy here this week, and he begrudgingly he allowed me to snap a birthday photo. Happy Birthday darling xx
Wait,  I see a resemblance here......
What do you think?  Steve alas does not own the white jumpsuit of Barry Gibb :-)  
Naughty jokes aside, Steve had a very nice birthday fishing with his mate Laurie.  They brought in a good haul and another 5 kilos of fish fillets are now packed away in our freezer.  Bonito, Breaksea Cod, Orange Wrass and Samson Fish.  We had Bonito and Cod for dinner tonight, both yummy, and Steve will smoke some Samson Fish tomorrow, looking forward to that too!
 I'm a bit fed up with the sand sand sand that is surrounding our house, so I grabbed the sack trolley and hauled over a few of my big pot plants and put them on the verandah.  Amazing how much better I felt with just that tiny little bit of green outside the front door.  And if the roos eat them there will be trouble!
Speaking of roos, behind the house I plonked a bird bath a month ago.  It's been so dry that I thought the birds would appreciate it and certainly the magpies have been using it.  Steve noticed a little visitor the other morning, this roo sat there quietly checking the bird bath out, pretending not to be there.
Without moving her body, next minute she had quietly turned her head and was slurping all the water out of the bird bath! We have a nice lot of rain forecast later in the week, I hope it eventuates.
We had the pleasure of some visitors this morning, it was really nice to see you Glen and Graham.  :-)

Friday, 1 March 2013

Back In The Land Of The Living

Far out, what a waste of a whole week.  I have been a poorly girl, having some sort of weird illness that involved the sorest throat I have ever had, reducing me to a blubbering mess on a number of occasions, sucking ice all the while.  Finally, yesterday, I felt like I was arising from the swamp, and today feel completely back to normal.  Hoo-ray. 

Anyway, apart from that, what's been happening here...
Damnation! This is the windscreen of our brand new little 4WD.  Steve was driving into Albany when a truck coming the other way threw up a stone which hit the windscreen.  Phonecalls to the insurance company and windscreen people followed, and we are now awaiting a new windscreen.  Thank goodness for insurance!
Steve has been a busy boy sealing the concrete around the house.  First he had to acid-wash it, then rinse it, then wait for it to dry, then do 2 coats of sealer.  We are really pleased with it, the colour has become nice and rich with a slightly uneven look sort of natural rock-like.  It's nice.  Good job done.
Steve has also started putting up the curtain rods above all the windows.  This corner of the living room gets full afternoon sun for a couple of hours and at present we are using sheets to cover them up.  It will be good to have proper curtains..... my job...
And so the sweatshop begins.  I've finished the two spare bedrooms, next are the four living room windows.  You have no idea how many times I have rammed pins into my fingers trying to negotiate the large amounts of fabric through the sewing machine, a bit of language was heard!
I harvested my pumpkins which was rather exciting as we've never grown them before.  As well as these grey ones, I have another 10 small Jap ones sitting on a shelf in the pantry.  The Jap ones make fantastic pumpkin scones!  I reckon all this lot will do us for the year so yay for the home producer.  :-)
I also learned a valuable lesson.  A couple of months ago I pulled up the last of the beetroot, huge, luscious looking things they were.  I decided to try and store them like potatoes, in the pantry in the dark, and I wrapped them in newspaper.  Last week I thought I'd make some beetroot dip so I pulled the basket out and unwrapped them.  Well, all bar one were nondescript shrivelled monstrosities which went straight into the bin.  One large one looked okay albeit rather dehydrated.  I figured boiling it for an hour would revitalise it and all would be well.  Nup.  It tasted foul and as you can see, ended up in the food scraps bin for composting.  So, I now know not to do that again!
We had a win.  We will start planting our orchard in a couple of months, and we have decided to individually net each tree later on to protect them from birds, and in doing that we would need many many metres of  black irrigation pipe.  You hammer four star pickets in the ground around the tree then make a cross over the tree with two pieces of  black pipe that you secure over the top of the star pickets.  Then you sling your net over the top and it stops the net from getting all caught up in the tree.  It wont be cheap to buy all the fencing, the trees, the nets, star pickets and the pipe.  So imagine our delight when chatting to our neighbour who happened to mention that she has heaps of black pipe she no long wanted, and she was actually going to take it to the tip.  That precious pipe is now in our hot little hands and we are really pleased.  Thanks Marilyn!
Speaking of protecting trees, see this cute but bad, very bad bunny?  Another thing we have learned, bunnies like eating bark and leaves of young citrus trees!  Bad bad bunny.  We planted 6 citrus trees between the shed and the house, figuring they would not need the protection of the orchard fence.  After finding the bottoms of all the trees ravaged, we hastily bunged some wire around each one, hence the perplexed looking rabbit staring at the mandarin tree in the background, wondering how to get to it!  Hopefully the trees will be okay now, we are giving them much love and water to aid their recovery.
I will begrudgingly say in the bunny's defence, that it is so dry around here, with hardly any green feed left, that I guess the bad bunny was getting desperate.  The roos have been eating the new leaves of all my young acacia trees for the same reason I guess.  Normally they don't bother with them.  I took this roo photo to show the size difference between the big male, a female and the joey that's been out of the pouch for about a month.  The two big males we see around here are awe inspiring, rippling muscles and power make them a creature to have a lot of respect for.
On a final note, about 3am one night last week, Steve sleepily asked what I was doing.  I was standing at our bedroom window with my camera trying to take a decent shot of this amazing moon.  Doesn't look like much in the photo, but it was gorgeous.  It was low in the western sky, very big, bright gold and red, with bits of cloud covering parts of it.  Beautiful.  If I had had my wits about me I should have tried putting the camera onto the tripod and doing a long exposure shot, but to be honest, my brain was not capable of remembering how to do that at 3am!