Monday, 21 October 2013

Spring is here, not it's not, yes it is, no it's not....

The weather is crazy this year, it can't decide whether to be spring or winter and keeps chopping and changing.  Hence the spring planting of veggies is late, it's been too darn cold for the most part.  But that's okay, we roll with the seasons.  :-) 
So far we've planted potatoes, sweet corn (which is just starting to come up), scarlet runner beans and a couple of tomato plants.  Also some lebanese cucumber seedlings (pictured) and capsicum seedlings.
Last week I planted about 60 different seeds into punnets!  We went through our seed collection that has been gathered and bought over the years.  Some of them are very old so we decided to bung them in.  We have seeds of 16 different varieties of tomato!  By next winter we are hoping to have a greenhouse of sorts built which will be wonderful for germinating seeds while it is still cold outside, but for now I am experimenting with a low wooden box full of moist coir stuff, and I have sunk all the punnet thingies into this, theory being that it will keep the punnet soil temperature stable and moist.  I'll report later as to whether this was a good idea or not.

We are still picking a nice, steady supply of veggies grown over the winter.  We are getting plenty of really nice celery, the broad beans have exploded and I've started freezing those, the purple kale is coming along well (and the chooks LOVE this!), a few carrots here and there and some lettuce. 
 
 We have started harvesting the root crops.  We grew turnips for the first time which are very nice and there is plenty chopped up in the freezer.  The main root crop at the moment is beetroot.  We've harvested about half of it so far.  We'll pull the rest of the beetroot next week and that will be for pickling.
I used this lot of beetroot to make a batch of beetroot chutney.  I've never made it before and I've been looking for various ways of using beetroot as we seem to grow it well.  I have to say that I am a little disappointed with the chutney, it is very very sweet, too sweet I think.  It will be okay to use in small amounts but next time I make it I will adjust the recipe.
The really yummy thing I did make though, was beetroot hummus.  Divine! Here is the recipe for anyone who is interested :-
450 g can of beetroot, drained (I used 250 g of fresh beetroot that was baked in the oven in foil)
400 g can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon of tahini paste (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Place all ingredients except oil into a food processor and blitz to a coarse paste.  With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube until the mixture is thick and smooth.  Season to taste.  It recommends to serve this with warm Turkish bread (yummmm).  We've been eating it with salad sticks and smearing it on bread for a sandwich instead of marg.
What do you think of this?  Does it look like a fabulous casserole or ornate salad that was prepared lovingly by a chef?  Was it delicious to eat?
Yes, it was delicious said Angie, Anne, Leanne and Wilma.  Do you think we have spoiled hens?  They adore the little tail end bits of prawns, shell and all.  This is a rare treat and it is very funny to see them squabble over those little orange treasures.  There was all sorts of good stuff in their breakfast that day - mixed grain porridge, veggie scraps, crushed egg shells, stale bread, cooked beetroot, you name it, it's in there!  And they reward us with 3 or 4 delicious eggs every day, with shells like concrete.
On the wildlife front, and as I type this there are 14 kangaroos lying in the grass down the hill from our house, don't you think it is interesting how long mum roos let their joeys nurse for.  This joey has been out of the pouch for well over 18 months, so she is over two years old, and still mum lets her poke her head into the pouch for a quick drink.
 
A beautifully vibrant Western Rosella sitting on the fence at the back of the house.  He is noshing on a grass seed head.
And in my little fenced garden, a few flowers are starting to appear.  Cornflowers, one of my favourites.
 Leptospermum, looks like Geraldton Wax but a denser plant.
A shrub called Karri Oak.  I love this, it has beautifully shaped leaves and little cream flowers that the bees love.  It grows fairly locally in the wild.
The kangaroo paw cuttings I brought from our Perth garden are settling in and starting to flower.
This is a really interesting geranium, although the photo shows the flowers as magenta, they actually look almost black, they are a very very dark purple colour, very pretty.  Paul, you may be interested to know where I got this.... it was growing near the front door of the very first house you rented, and I pinched a piece and potted it.  :-)
Garlic chive flowers, so cheerful, and you can eat them too!
Slowly the garden is growing.  Most of my plants are still very very small but this section is the oldest and I love it when gardens start to shrub up.  The Karri Oak is on the left, there is an Olive tree at centre back, and on the right is a Westringia Wynabbie Gem.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Who Knew?

Did you know that today is World Egg Day?  Nor did I!  Every second Friday in October since 1996 in fact.  I am quite impressed with this because, as you well know, we embrace the egg.  Our girlies have laid 156 eggs in the seven weeks they have lived with us, averaging two dozen a week!  Here are some fascinating facts about eggs, I know you are just dying to read about them...
  • A large egg contains about 5 grams of fat and 70 calories.  Egg protein has just the right mix of essential amino acids needed by humans to build tissues.  It is second only to mother's milk for human nutrition.  The yolk contains all the egg's fat and half its protein.
  • It takes a hen about 25 hours to produce an egg, about half an hour of fussing around just before laying the egg, and the actual laying of the egg takes about a minute, and this is done with the hen standing up.
  • You can spin an egg to find out if it is hard boiled or raw.  If it wobbles it's raw, if it spins smoothly it's hard boiled.
  • The mathematical description of an egg's shape is 'oblate', or a 'prolate spheroid'.
  • The people of China and Japan eat the most eggs, about 350 per person per year.  Australians eat about 220 per person per year and this number is growing.
  • Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D.
  • The record for the most yolks found in one egg is nine.
We chose to celebrate World Egg Day by scoffing this delicious pavlova that Steve made.  Just look at the colour of the custard he made from the yolks, so so yellow!
I've been in a bit of trouble this week.  First I was being a bit gung-ho on Helga, doing some mowing in the outer edges of the forest.  I was doing some clearing of the undergrowth, bracken and such, in preparation for summer and reducing fuel.  Anyway, as I said,  a bit gung-ho, and I hit a stump with the side of Helga and proceeded to bust off the cover that protects the mower blades.  Steve patiently repaired it for me..... then I did exactly the same thing half an hour later.  I try to live and learn but obviously I'm a bit slow. :-)
Then the next day I did this.  Can you see that hole in the middle of that pipe?  That is the water pipe the Steve laid a couple of weeks ago when he piped water and installed a tap to the chook yard.  The pipe travels through my fenced garden, and Steve asked me to bury the pipe along the fence so, a) it would be protected and b) I would know where it was so I could avoid it when gardening.  Well.  All I can say is that I forgot.  And when I rammed that big garden fork into the ground to lift some grass, the big fountain of water that shot into the air, that was the reminder I needed.  Bit late though.  I am sheepish, truly...
Moving on from transgressions, we seem to have our very own resident wedgetail eagle.  I think it might be a youngish bird as I have seen bigger ones.  It is to be found either flying overhead our place or sitting in various trees most of the time.  The crows give it merry hell, ganging up on it in midair, trying to shoo it away.  It's a beautiful bird and if it catches some of the abundant rabbits around here, we will be most pleased.  Check out the talons in the blurry flying photo, sharp and long!
As the cold and wet of winter passes we have both decided that no longer can we ignore the ever increasing waistline, so we are hopping out of bed earlier in the morning and have started doing a morning walk.  We often walk around our own boundary but as that is a little hilly and rough, it is hard to do more than 'stroll' which I don't think counts as exercise really.  Anyway, we are taking ourselves for walks further afield, including the beach, which is where we went this morning.
This is the entrance to Perkins Beach.  Isn't it pretty.  There is a permanent freshwater stream, stained with tannins, that gurgles its way through the dunes and across the beach, sometimes breaking through to the ocean.  The coastal wildflowers are in abundance and it all looks lovely.
 
Early morning sun is gorgeous on a beach, I love the way it glistens across the water whilst at the same time creating silhouettes.
It was a lovely walk, and just as well we went early, as within an hour of getting home, the wind and torrential rain turned up.  Very glad we experienced a beautiful early morning on the southern shores.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Chunder Buns!

As the weather starts to warm up a tad and the rain abates, suddenly there is a flurry of cleaning up to be done around the place.  On little properties people are gathering up fallen branches and old wood and tossing them onto the ever increasing bonfire piles.  We have a month before the firebans come in, so there are plumes of smoke everywhere.  We have 7 huge stumps that we'd love to get rid of, so we've been heaping everything on top to see if they will burn.  Finally we had a day with no wind so burning day it was.  Everything is still a bit damp so the fire needed persuading to burn fiercely and although all the crap we had cleaned up finally burnt, those stumps stubbornly sat there with barely a scorch mark.  We'll have another go in  week or so, but this time will stack more small logs at ground level around the stumps, rather than throwing everything over the top.
In the vegie patch, we are nearing the end of the winter veggies and it's almost time to clear things up ready for spring planting.  Currently we are eating the last of the broccoli, the carrots are yummy (we should have planted more and will do), the spinach is struggling but giving me enough for a taste (huge problem with slugs this year) and the odd turnip and cauliflower is finding its way into soup or stews.  We are about to have an explosion of beetroot and plans are afoot for pickled beetroot and beetroot chutney.  The current abundant veggie is celery.  We've never grown it before and are very happy with how it has grown.  Slugs are a bit of a problem getting between the layers, but a good wash and cut out a few holes and it's fine.  We are looking forward to letting the chooks into the veggie patch before we plant the new stuff, and I reckon they will do a grand job of depleting the slug population!

So, with the abundance of celery, we've been adding it to salad and stews. I'm going to cut up, blanch and freeze a heap, a big batch of cream of celery soup is on the cards, then, a brain zap from the past - Chunder Buns! Yes!  For those of you that haven't tried this delightful snack, grate some cheese, add as much chopped celery as you wish, and mix it together with tomato sauce, enough to moisten the mix and hold it together  a bit.  Then heap it onto split bread rolls (we used toast this time) and grill until the cheese melts.  Yummm!
Steve has been busy building me a sturdy fence for my garden.  He's finished all the woodwork foundation and has starting adding the wire.  It is supposed to be rabbit-proof wire and the fence is high enough to keep the roos out, I love how it looks.  Nothing better than a wooden top to a fence so you can lean on it.
With the nice weather, I've been spending some time weeding and planting in the fenced garden.  And my helpers have been doing the same.  When I say helpers, hmm, it is rather difficult trying to dig holes with a captive audience, ready to dive into said hole at a moment's notice, grabbing worms and bugs.  So my digging takes a lot longer but is very entertaining.  Here are Angie and Anne watching out for the next tidbit to wiggle.
And when the girls are not helping me, they are busy scratching around the plants, feasting on all manner of beasties.  Angie even dug up a small, fat frog, which I thought she would ignore.  Nope - down the hatch it went!!
Here is cute, quiet Leanne looking curiously at something.  They have the best time when allowed into the garden.  :-)
Yesterday we decided to have a day in town.  This time of year Art Trail is on - for two weeks local artists have displays in over seventy locations around Denmark, Albany, Mount Barker and inbetween. Gosh there are some talented people around and we marveled at paintings, sketches, sculptures, pottery and more. 

Ever since moving down here we've wanted to buy a piece of original, local art and this year we found it.  I can't quite describe the feeling, we both fell in love with this piece and can't stop looking at it.  On first glance we thought it was a photograph, but no, in fact the piece has been done with pastels.  It is called Southern Dune and is the work of a first time exhibitor, a lady by the name of Mary Young.  My photo doesn't do it justice at all, the vibrant light captured in it is something that only the eye can appreciate.  It isn't purple either, that's the photo!
Here's a close-up of the footprints up the dune.  I can't get over the detail, particularly that the medium is pastels.  So so happy that it is hanging in our house.  :-)