Saturday, 29 October 2016

Of Blue Boys And Flustered Ducks

Well, it's blowing a gale today so it's time to sit down and write a blog post.  We've been really busy this week, the weather has been perfect and so we've been clearing, mowing, slashing, cutting, pruning, burning, chopping, mulching, setting up driplines and all the other things associated with getting ready for the fire season.  As much as the urge to sit and knit was within me, I ignored it and we both spent all day everyday outside doing chores and are feeling well satisfied with the start we've made.  This is Steve's enormous new woodpile after he chopped down a couple of dead trees, we'll be all set for winter next year!
 We had an hour off to meet Poppy, a gorgeous tiny orphan joey who is being cared for by a friend.  She is apparently at the equivalent of about two weeks from being pushed out of a mum's pouch for brief periods, to learn how to hop and nibble grass, so she's not hopping yet. 
 She drinks a special formula equivalent to kangaroo milk from a bottle four times a day.  When they are really tiny they need small feeds every two hours, so rearing an orphan joey is indeed a huge commitment.  Isn't she adorable, she has been unwrapped from her fabric pouch here as she needs sunshine to get some vitamin D.
 There are kookaburras everywhere, they amaze me with their motionless stealth for ages before they spot and snap up a hapless lizard.
 The Splendid wrens are very active at the moment, it's so lovely watching them.  Incredible that any creature can be so magnificently coloured.
 Here is one of the females, quite a difference to her boyfriend hey!  When she fans her tail the feathers are light blue, but that's the only blue she has.  I love the bright orange of her beak and around her eyes, her very own tiny bit of vividness.
This is Spuddles, the dark headed duck.  She has been great, laying four or five eggs a week for the last few months, whereas her sister Puddles hasn't laid a single one.  But Spuddles went all weird on us at the beginning of the week.
 I kept finding her in the nesting box all the time, she pulled the down out of her chest and made a lovely fluffy, soft nest, then proceeded to sit on hers and the chicken's eggs, a grand total of three.  I take this to mean that she was feeling broody.  I spoiled her fun by grabbing the eggs when she was out foraging, but she went back and sat on an empty nest for a while.  Then when she was out feeding, a chook would dash in and lay another egg, so she would sit on that til I pinched it.  After three days she decided it was more fun to wander in the orchard eating bugs than the boring task of sitting on eggs all day, and gave up.  But she is getting her own back by not laying a single egg for the last five days, that will teach me to upset her!  It would be lovely to have a drake and let her hatch cute little ducklings, but that would mean having to knock off the young drakes and we don't want to do that, so no babies for Spuddles.
 It always astounds me how plants and seeds spring to life after a week of warmer weather.  I planted a heap of veggie seedlings in little pots about a month ago, and this week they are starting to grow.  Tomatoes, spinach, beetroot, cabbage and red onion seedlings can be planted soon, and I'm waiting for germination of numerous beans, peas and cucumbers.
 I love this trailing pelargonium, it has beautiful flowers of the most lovely peach colour.
 The white mulberry tree has heaps of tiny immature fruit on it this year, it must have liked the cold winter.  I think we'll need to net the tree this year to have any hope of indulging in some luscious fruit.
 I love these yellow pokers, they are so cheerful and bright.
 I know this is boring to most people, but the last blogpost showed some cherry blossum, this week we have teeny tiny cherries!  Yeehar!  That would be most satisfying, to have even a small handful of cherries grown in our very own orchard. 
 The nectarines are starting to grow.
 Now the fruit is starting to grow, the big job of netting the trees is underway.  We've got half the orchard netted for now, we've left the apples in the open for the time being as they've only just started flowering, so it's too early for netting those.
 
The Globe artichokes are springing to life.  We had our first meal of them last week, boiled, then dipping the luscious ends of the leaves into a mixture of melted butter, lemon juice and salt - deeeeevine!
 This is an interesting plant, it's a citrus geranium.  If you crush the leaves the citrus scent is incredibly strong.  It flowered for the first time this year too, so and visual bonus as well.
 And here is the gorgeous boy, watching birds outside the sliding door.  He has his pot of grass next to the sliding door, so he can munch his greens whilst watching the bird and insect world outside.
 I did get back to my knitting, Mum, I have finally finished your birthday socks!  They'll be in the post to you next week.  :-) xx

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Mum OBE

We had the pleasure of the company of mum and dad who toodled down here on the coach to stay with us for a week.  We treated them to a nice French dinner at the Lavender Cottage, it was a special occasion after all - Mum is celebrating her 80th birthday on Sunday.  I told her that she can now put the letters OBE after her name..... "Over Bloody Eighty"  ha ha ha.  Happy Birthday mum xx

 We spent a couple of days driving around taking in the sights, one of our favourite places was the wonderful Sculpture Park, a continual work in progress on the property of Darrel Radcliffe, a chainsaw artist.  Click HERE to read an article about him.  The drive through his property is fantastic, you stay in your vehicle and slowly cruise through, eyes peeled for carvings dotted around the place. 



Nothing beats a scenic drive around Mount Clarence to Middleton Beach, and we ended up at the beautiful Emu Point where we had a very nice lunch.
While we were in the car park I spotted a juvenile Pacific Gull hovering above.  He had some sort of shellfish in his beak, a clam perhaps, and he very cleverly hovered way up in the air above the bitumen, then dropped the clam to break the shell.  Then he did it again, diving quickly to gobble up his prize before the seagulls grabbed it.  I was most impressed at his cleverness.
Speaking of birds, this is our lot.  Breakfast time is a busy affair.  They all get on very well these days, the ducks are not quite so bossy, and most days we find 2 chook eggs and 1 duck egg in the nesting boxes.  Well done ladies.
 There are many many fat kangaroo pouches to be seen at present.
There are at least seven mums with joeys that are almost ready to start leaving their pouches for brief periods and learn how to hop and eat grass.
This little one, who has popped its head inside the pouch for a drink, has been seen awkwardly attempting to hop for the last week or so, the first of many.  It will look like a nursery here soon, I hope they all hang out together and play.
That big pile of cuttings and storm dropped branches behind the kangaroo has been sitting there while we wait for the appropriate day of weather to burn it.  That day came on Tuesday, we'd had a few dry days so it wasn't quite as soggy as usual, and, more importantly, the first day of light winds in ages, so there was no risk of embers flying around being dangerous.  After half an hour of flames it quietly smouldered away for the rest of the day.  Job well done, just in time, as the fire bans start next week.
 The orchard is continuing to sprout forth leaves and blossum.  These teeny tiny green fruit are Coe's Golden Drop plums.  They are a European plum and we are excited as there are heaps on the tree.  Lets hope they don't fall off and we get to try a few!
This is one small branch on the dwarf Sundowner apple tree.  It really is quite a show-off, absolutely weighed down with beautiful blossum.  It is also a very confused tree, it is supposed to be the latest of our five apple tree, fruiting in May/June, but this one doesn't know the rules and has been the first to flower for the last two seasons. 
 This is rather thrilling, although you may wonder why.  This is our little Stella cherry tree, and for the first time it has blossom on it.  Not a lot, about twenty flowers currently although I can see more coming.  How exciting would that be to grow a few cherries, yum!
This I am most unimpressed about.  This is our Angel peach tree, and this tree, like the other peach and nectarine trees in the orchard, are suffering from leaf curl, a fungal disease, which makes the leaves curl up and they get weird red lumps on them.  I am pissed off as I meticulously followed the rules to control this, spraying with copper when the leaves fall in autumn, and then again just before they start growing again in spring.  I did exactly what I should have, and yet the trees have the worst case of it we've ever had.  This tree in particular has got it very badly.  Oddly it doesn't seem to affect the fruit although bad and continuous infestations can weaken the tree, which is not what we want to happen.  Eventually these affected leaves will all fall off and then the healthy leaves will come through.  In previous seasons I have pulled off the affected leaves and burned them but this tree would have no leaves left if I did that.  So, I've sprayed them with copper again and I've given the trees a good tonic drink of Seasol and we'll hope for the best.  I think next year I will buy a fresh bottle of copper and I have since read that mixing a bit of oil with it can help it to stick better. 
My fenced garden out the front near the chooks is a haven for the wrens at present.  There are splendid wrens and fairy wrens and scrub wrens, all enjoying the thick cover of some of my plants.  Lots of bird arguing can be heard amid the best and thickest plants, while they contend for (hopefully) a good nesting spot.  This beauty is Grevillea olivacea, which is now about 2 metres across and 1 1/2 metres high.  It's covered in these glorious apricot flowers.
This plant, Leucospermum or teatree, is much the same size as the plant above, and is covered with these waxy flowers that have a delicious, subtle, honey aroma.  Birds and bees abound here.
This is a geranium, a particularly rampant one that grows thickly and has lovely burgundy flowers.  There was a huge hubbub going on inside this plant yesterday, lots of cross tweeting.
 I think I am rather attracted to five petalled flowers, simple ones with lovely colours.  I planted this recently, it's a ground cover geranium called Rosanne, and I was thrilled to see the first flowers emerge a few days ago, I love the colour and the delicate striping.
Well, we have sunshine outside, although the air is chilly, so I think I'll venture out and pull a few weeds up.....

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Blown To Kingdom Come!

My goodness we've had some stormy weather, the wind has been relentless with day after day of severe weather warnings.  Apart from losing power for 10 hours which was a bit of a pain, we got off very lightly.  There is tons of mess, loads of little branches to pick up, but thankfully no whole trees down.  We lost a big branch from the big old jarrah in the back garden, but it very neatly fell onto the grass between the two garden beds, so it didn't squash any plants.
My lovely Melaleuca incana blew over though, that's the one that the butterflies and blue wrens spend a lot of time in, right outside the back door.  Thankfully it blew onto a lavender bush that stopped it from being completely blown over.
 I managed to haul it back up and tie it securely to a star picket.  I also gave it a big haircut to reduce the weight, so now I will cross my fingers and hope the roots weren't ripped apart and that it will start growing again.
 I am rather fond of this plant, called Loropetalum chinensis.  The photo doesn't show it very well but those frilly little flowers are in fact a bright hot pink colour.  It's a very flamboyant plant with its maroon leaves and hot pink flowers, it makes me smile.
 This plant is called candytuft, virtually an annual, but it drops its seeds readily and therefore comes back every year without any effort on my part.  They are slowly spreading in the garden bed outside the kitchen window, they are very pretty enmasse.
 I spent some time tidying in my sewing room.  Steve very kindly cut back an old cupboard we weren't using any more, to give me some shelves for my yarn stash.  I could never see what I had when it was tucked away in the bowels of a low down cupboard.  Now I can admire it and easily see where the gaps are that require a bit of shopping.  One can never have too much yarn, or patchwork fabric, or embroidery threads.... :-)
 This is what I'm working on at embroidery. It's canvaswork and I'm trying to invent a small street of quirky houses.  It will end up square shaped and the plan is to stitch it the front of a patchwork, rice-filled cube, to use as a door stop.
 This weekend was the finale of the annual Southern Art and Craft Trail.  We waited til the last day as we knew the crowds would be thinning out as its the end of the school holidays.
 We toddled off into Denmark this morning and wandered through four of the venues, admiring the talents of many local artists.  Since we moved into our house down here, we have bought one piece of original, local art per year, and this is what we bought today.  My photo isn't very good, the watercolour has a lot more depth that I can show.  We love it, it's called Flying Free by artist Sarah Bondini, who we met today and had a lovely chat with.  It's so nice meeting the artist of a piece of art that you absolutely love.  It has pride of place in the living room now. :-)