Sunday, 28 February 2016

Deluge

Mum and Dad have just spent the last six days relaxing at our place.  Little did they know they'd spend most of their time wrapped up in warm quilts, the first half of the week was freezing and wet!
 They bravely sat outside on the verandah though, reading and watching the view and the wildlife.
 We all sat out there for hours one afternoon watching this impressive storm cell approaching from the north-west.
 Eventually the heavens opened, so much so that the filter in the top of the tank couldn't cope with that much rain in one go and overflowed!
 We had a few sunny days though, lovely for toasting oneself with a quilt and a good book.
 I managed to finish making the quilt for the guest bed just in time for mum and dad to arrive.  I'm not sure if I like the green pillow slips though, I sewed some of the strips of colours along one edge.  I might do a white set of pillowslips too and use the green as the back row of pillows, I'm thinking white will look better.  Anyway, I'm pleased with the quilt and it fits the bed just right.
 Neo tolerated his visitors although declined to be particularly friendly.  He spent a lot of time watching aloofly from his man tower atop the bookshelf.
 In the meantime harvesting of vegies goes on.  We are particularly rapt with the tomatoes this year, having grown virtually none the last couple of years.  They are enjoying the extra water from the bore, I think we parched them in previous summers.
 I've done a batch of tomato sauce and am proud to say that it is delicious, something that Mr Heinz would be happy to call his own.  :-)
 Here though I am squishing cherry tomatoes (underwater so I don't get squirted in the face by the seeds) and spreading them on trays, sprinkled with garlic, salt and herbs, to be dried in the oven.  They also turned out very nicely.
 Steve harvested all the sweetcorn in two sessions, so as well as eating it fresh and lovely, I stripped the kernels off loads of them and froze it in 200g packs for later use.  I think there are about 25 packs in the freezer, yay!  Then I dry out the stripped cobs by sitting them on the sunny kitchen window sill for a few weeks, then I dribble a bit of candle wax over them and store them away for winter - they make great firelighters!
 We've had quite a variation in egg size lately, from a small 58 grams to a whopping 84 grams.  We usually get eggs weighing between 65-70 grams.  One chicken must have had a sore bum after pushing that big one out!
 Have a look at this, can you see my beautiful bookend?  I asked Steve to make me a wooden book to use as a bookend, isn't it lovely.  I want more! :-)
 There are so many flowers in the garden at present, I get great joy from wandering around looking at them.  Mum gave me these beautiful Canna plants as an early birthday present, I love the orange flowers.
 At embroidery last year, one of the ladies brought in a heap of bulbs of what she called "Paddock flowers".  I'd never heard of them but apparently they pop up in paddocks, they look a bit like a lily.  I planted them up the back next to a bird bath and was thrilled to see the first batch of flowers blooming last week.  There are three more flower heads coming out of the ground so they should put on a good show for quite some time. 
 My banksia flower is still going, gosh the flower lasts for a long time.  It's now getting the fluffy stuff around the bottom half and the little birds are enjoying it, I guess this part of the flower is producing the nectar.
 My Mirabilis jalapa is growing really well.  I am mega impressed with a plant that has different coloured flowers on the same plant. 
 I'm trying something different with growing pumpkins this year.  This one selfseeded and I am presuming it's a Jap pumpkin going by the shape.  I've tied it up along a fence, I'm going to see if the pumpkins will grow hanging up off the ground, rather than climbing through all my other plants and pretending to be a jungle in its own right!
I've been involved in an interesting mission lately.  Some months ago I was contacted via this blog by a British wildlife artist who has a commission to paint the White-tailed black parrots.  He asked if I knew anyone who did photography of the parrots' natural habitat.  As the White-tails and Red-tails live around here, I offered to do some photography for him. 
It involved taking lots of photos of the habitat trees, and separating the photos into the different tree varieties.  These are the big Marri trees, which produce the gumnuts that the black parrots primarily feed from.
 I also took photos of leaf litter, fallen logs, and other trees growing nearby
I took photos of the gumnuts the birds feed on.  Unfortunately I was a bit early for fresh gumnuts on the trees when I did most of the photography, so I scoured the forest floor for some good shots of fallen ones.
Last week the black parrots started arriving, feeding on the now ripe gumnuts in the very tops of the trees.  The raucous cacophany of the birds is amazing, and you know which tree they are in by the raining down of the chewed apart gumnuts.  This is a photo of what a gumnut looks like after a black parrot has been at it, they break them open to extract the three seeds inside.
The artist's name is Ian Griffiths, he lives in Cornwall in England, and is a very talented wildlife artist, he has won awards in the BBC's Wildlife Artist of the Year amongst others. 
His website is here - http://www.artbygriff.com/
and here - http://www.parrot-paintings.com/
If you get the chance, do go and have a look, there are beautiful things to see.

I can't wait to see a photo of the painting Ian produces of the White-tails and am feeling rather proud to be able to help out by providing hands-on data re the parrots' habitat.  The poor man must have spent hours going through what I sent him, I think I took 250 photos and some videos! 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Green

Green green green, how I love summer green.  After all the rain, grass and plants are bursting with fresh growth.
 The pink and grey galahs are frequent visitors.
 The citrus trees are looking good.  Even the stubborn mandarine in the foreground has decided to put on some decent growth.
 My banksia is now in full flower, and I've finally been able to identify it, its a Banksia speciosa, or Showy Banksia.  Endemic to the south coast of WA, particularly towards Esperance apparently.
 This is my dwarf lillipilli, grown from a tiny cutting from my friend Ruth.  It's now handsome shrub about 1 metre high, and for the first time has flowered.  I love the fluffy white flowers, and if I'm lucky I might even see some fruit.  Except the parrots will probably see them first!
 This is a native bluebell creeper, I'm trying to train it up and over the remains of a dead jarrah trunk in my garden.  It will make a great habitat for the little birds as it is quite thick.  The day I discover the little birds are nesting in my garden will be a happy one indeed.  :-)
 This plant, grow from a cutting from Ruth, who got a cutting from her friend, is called Miribalis, or Four O'Clock plant.  It's from Peru apparently.  I am quite proud as no-one knew what the plant was and I managed to put on my detective hat and between me and Google, figured out its identity. 
The flowers come out about 4pm, bloom all night, then close up by midmorning.  They have a lovely fragrance, so I'm hoping when the three plants grow bigger and flower more, that the perfume will waft around in the evening.
 This is my Moonglow grevillea, I planted it about 5 years ago, but it was ravaged by the kangaroos for the first few years until I finally put a wide enough fence around it.  It's growing well now, getting a lot bigger.  The bees and nectar birds love it.
 I had a disaster with the passionfruit vine.  It carked it.  So quickly too, all the leaves wilted then died in a matter of weeks.  There was masses of fruit on it so I managed to salvage some of them, a lot of them dried up unfortunately.  Upon researching I think it succumbed to a fungal disease called Frusarium Wilt, which resides in the soil.  Darn it.
 Luckily the banana passionfruit alongside seems unaffected, hopefully it is resistant.  I've got another passionfruit vine growing and I might plant another one in a different place, luckily they grow fast.
 
 Anyway, the passionfruit I saved were ripe but the flesh, although edible,  is a bit sour as they didn't have a chance to finish ripening before the vine died.  So I depulped them all and poured it into freezer bags for use in fruit salads and yogurt later on.  Glad to have saved some of the crop.
 The trees in the orchard are looking good, and all putting on new growth.  This is the triple grafted apricot tree that has grown like the clappers.  It's about 2 metres high.  We got two apricots this year, well, we watched the two apricots slowly ripen until the day before we were going to pick them, then some ratbag critter or bird nicked them! Next year....
 This is the sad O'Henry peach that almost died on us.  It seems to be recovering slowly and is growing new leaves after completely defoliating and dropping all its fruit.  Lesson learned, don't use bore water on this tree!
 These are the two nectarine trees, the Flavortop yellow fleshed one in front, and the Goldmine white fleshed one behind and to the left.  Go figure, they grow alongside each other, and the front one is the other tree that almost died after bore water irrigation.  Again, it is recovering and releafing like the peach, but look at the difference between these two nectarine trees, the Goldmine one is a mass of lush foliage, too much in fact.  I can't fathom why one tree was happy and one was not.  We are pleased to see the sick one looking happy again though.
 This is the Angel peach, a white fleshed one.  That too has grown beautifully, loads of healthy leaves.
 The apples are coming along nicely, we have five varieties.  This one is a Cox's Orange Pippin, a famous English eating apple.
 This is a Red Fuji, my favourite apple.  As you can see we aren't very good at thinning out the fruit!
 Meanwhile, outside the fences protecting the fruit and veg, we spy bunny holes in the bush.  We've noticed a few plaintive little digging attempts along the fence perimeter, but thankfully Steve buried the wire into the ground and this has foiled the bunnies - ha!  There were hardly any rabbits around last year, but we are certainly seeing them this year. 
 The roos are enjoying the green grass of summer, plus the odd serving of wheat we succumb to giving them.  The mum standing with joey in the foreground is Split (she has a split ear), Lucy is behind her with a joey in pouch too.  Growler (cos she does) at the back right.
 Here's Growler again, with her now out of the pouch joey, Andre, with his tennis sweatband forehead marking. :-)
 I would love to master the ability to sketch kangaroos.  Only one line has to be a touch out of place and suddenly they look too fat or chubby cheeked or squat necked.   Fun trying though.