Saturday, 28 January 2017

Shiny Branches and Blue Boys

With the onset of a touch of warmer weather, there are few things ripening up in the vegie patch and orchard.  This was the harvest the other morning, one of eight apricots (yum!), an egg and many many Lebanese cucumbers, yahoo!  These cucumbers are so nice straight off the vine, crunchy with a hint of sweetness.
 As we had a horde ripen all in one go, it was pickle time!
 I make a cucumber freezer pickle.  Just a simple pickle, sweetened vinegar with a bit of turmeric, chopped onion and mustard seed, but what's good about it is that you can freeze it in small pots, and when you defrost it and keep it in the fridge for a week or two, it is still quite crunchy.  Anyway it's a great way to preserve a glut of cucumbers.
 Then it was the beetroot's turn.  There were some monsters under the ground!  A good scrub then wrap them in alfoil and bake in the oven for an hour or so.  When cool the skin just slides right off.
Then it's time to slice them thinly and pop into sterilised jars and top with sweeted, spiced vinegar.
 Seven huge jars of pickled beetroot, that will keep us going for the year I think.  There are still smaller beetroot growing in the vegie patch, I'll use those grated raw on top of salads, yummo!
 With the warm weather, the wrens are everywhere, including the beautiful Splendid wrens, the males in full, glorious coloured plumage.  I had spray painted a big branch silver and used it as a Christmas tree of sorts.  Now Christmas is over I just shoved it in the ground out the back, and this beautiful wren obviously considers this shiny branch befitting to his gorgeous self, and has taken to sitting in it, singing his little heart out.
 Silver and blue, lovely :-)
 I love that the roos come right up to the house, they are seeking out our greener grass more and more as the summer progresses.  I love seeing them and the new joeys learning to hop and to eat grass.  :-)
There has been much excitement next door at our neighbour's place.  Two of Claire's four minature mares have had foals, within 24 hours of each other.  Aren't they adorable, and so tiny!!  Barnaby is on the left and Rosey is on the right.
 You can get a better idea of the tiny size of Barnaby in this photo, little weeny boy!
 I have finished the bag I was making last week, after lots of swearing and sewing machine hissy fits and broken needles.  It has many many pockets which were a pain to make but I now realise, after filling it with my crochet bits and pieces, that it is in fact a very useful bag.
 Ta-dum! One finished bag with 4 outer pockets and three inner pockets.  Thanks for the help Ruth!
 Speaking of crochet, this is where I am at with my Mandala Madness.  I am liking it more and more with every layer, it gets more complex colourwise and I am learning so many new stitches and techniques, each layer is different so it keeps me interested.  I'm just starting Part 5, ten more parts to go!
 Michelle is here for a visit and she got into the crochet thing in this house too.  She whipped herself up this lovely cowl, is making a second one and is doing a bit of cross stitch too.  That's my girl!  xx
 I thought this was interesting, a timeline of Mandala Madness, at the end of Part 1, then the end of Part 2, then the end of Part 3, then the end of Part 4, left to right, top to bottom.  Isn't it amazing how it changes with the different colours.  A little ray of sunshine :-)

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Voldemort The Younger

We've had a nice quiet week, all the washing is finished, the house is clean, so we've enjoyed a bit of 'do what we want' time.  I rearranged my sewing room, it looked like a bomb had gone off as that was the place we shoved everything to get it out of the way whilst all our visitors were here.  I took the opportunity to change the positions of the cupboards and am much happier with it, I suddenly have a lot more room to move around.  This is my acrylic yarn stash (the cottons and wools are now in a drawer), this is in the forefront at present due to my Mandala Madness crochet mission.
 This is my progress so far, lots of hours but it is still a wee small thing.  I have different feelings about the colour scheme with every layer.  I hated it after the pink and orange petals, soooo bright!  But the next few colours have toned it down, and the following few layers I am choosing to use light yellow then cream so that will be interesting.
 I really like the textures that it's creating, raised edges and flappy petals.  I'm learning a lot too.
 I am also in the process of making myself a bag.  My friend Ruth helped me get started so now I must gamely continue on alone.  I'll show you a photo next time when it's hopefully finished!
 Neo is loving the sunshine, he has his sunbath in the doorway every morning when the sun streams in the sliding door.  Then he gets too hot and moves to the cool floor and plops himself down with an oomph. :-)
 He's a beautiful boy.
 Whenever we venture to Boston Brewery, where as well as nice food and drink, they also have a beautiful garden, I have always admired a grassy plant they have amongst other things.  With some research I found out that it is Purple Fountain Grass, and finally I bought myself one a few months ago.  It looked like crap for months, a small half dead thing, but suddenly it has decided to become magnificent.  Do you like it?  I think it's a great accent plant and I love the fluffy tails.
 Here's a close-up.
 I was sitting out the front crocheting the other day, and I glanced idly at a section of forest, admiring the trunk of a huge old marri tree, when it struck me.  It has a face!  Can you see it? On the big trunk in the middle of the photo.
 Here it is again after I've accentuated the eyes, nose and mouth with Photoshop.  The serene, sleepy face of a old tree, lovely.
 Talking of faces, what do you think of this one?  This is a black skink who lives in our shed and is known as Voldemort The Younger. 
There is an original shed dwelling Voldemort who is much bigger and we see occasionally, but Voldemort The Younger has taken up residence atop the timber up in the racks, just above eye level.  If you are not aware he can give you quite a start with his malevolent stare!  Black skinks are very useful albeit in a slightly alarming way, they eat bugs and the occasional mouse so we are quite happy for them to live in the shed.  What we don't like is when they are at ground level, underneath something so that just the end of their tail is visible, then you have to work out if you are looking at a snake or a skink!
On a sad note, Marx was put to sleep by the vet a couple of days ago.  Here's a photo of her with her boyfriend Big Ben, taken mid November.  Those legs hanging out of her pouch belong to Noelle, who is being cared for with four other joeys about the same age.  She is doing really really well apparently, so I'm very glad about that.  See ya Marx xx

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Mandala Madness

You know what you don't want in between lots and lots of family staying at your house, when the sheets and towels are being changed at a mindblowing rate of knots?  You don't want your washing machine to suddenly start screeching loudly, followed by the acrid stench of something very bad happening, with the finale of large belches of smoke that signalled the end of my 12 year old LG front loader washing machine.  As soon as the shops opened after New Year, we whipped into town and bought this beauty, another LG, I decided that I wanted to go back to a top loader and I was really pleased to find one that uses what I consider to be an acceptable amount of water, about the same as the standard front loader.  So, a gazillion loads of washing later, I am almost up to date and I am really pleased with the machine.
 We had a lovely time over the New Year's weekend with Paul, Sam, Stevie and Riley.  There were lots of Xmas presents for the girls that they enjoyed opening and playing with, we found a glorious park (Eyre Park, back from Middleton Beach - it has the BEST flying fox!), we ogled from the car as we drove through Sculpture Park where the wonders of chainsaw art are displayed in a bush setting, and the best treat was my neighbour bringing her orphan joeys that she raises over for Stevie and Riley to have big cuddles.  Lovely :-)
Our last lot of family visitors were my brother Pete, nephew Dee, niece Steph and her boyfriend Hunter who is visiting from Utah.  Our kangaroos kindly hung around so Hunter could enjoy seeing them, I was very pleased.  It was great to see you all! :-)
 Then I trotted up to Perth for a three day mother/daughter fun time with Michelle who was a birthday girl.  We shopped, walked, tried to entice kitties out from under the bed as apparently  I was a big scary monster but finally they consented, and we ate some wonderful vegan food.  On the last day we treated ourselves to dinner at Raw Kitchen in Fremantle, all plant based and a focus on raw, wow, the food was sensational!  Mine was Live Pad Thai, chocked with raw zucchini noodles and other vegies, with a lovely peanut sauce throughout.  Michelle's was raw nachos, I can't remember what the nachos are made of but they were delicious and the dippy stuff is a mixture of cashew cheese, tomatoes and other veg - yummo!  One the side we had a white bean dip drizzled with harissa oil and bread.  What a feast!
 I arrived home a couple of days ago, to a lovely quiet house.  It's been brilliant having everyone to stay and also visiting in Perth, but nothing beats home sweet home with my darling husband and pussy cat. 
I said hello to the roos, this is Andre, he is Growler's 2 year old, basking in some rays of sun.  He is a gorgeous little boy, feeling a bit left out as Growler keeps shooing him away as her newest joey spends time out of the pouch.
This is Noelle, the joey I rescued, playing with her mother Marx at the carer's place.  Noelle is fit and healthy, feeding well from the bottle, and as cheeky as a monkey by all accounts.  Marx is improving ever so slowly.  She is an amazing girl, apparently it is normally impossible to treat a wild adult roo, but she is tolerating all forms of treatment without any aggression, she seems to know she is being helped.  She's had x-rays, chiropractic manipulation of her lower spine (xray showed a small displacement of one spinal vertebrae), combined brain resources of three vets, not to mention the wonderful carers who roll her and massage her so she doesn't get pressure sores.  She is still not standing, but it is hopeful that she will.  The consensus is that the vertebrae that was out of whack compressed the nerves to her tail and made it partly numb, and as kangaroos use their tail for balance, they think this is the reason that Marx has been unable to get up.  She is constantly trying and her legs are strong, once the inflammation subsides it is hoped she'll be able to get up.  Small steps, the gurus think it will take a few months for her to recover, so we must all cross our fingers xx
 I wandered around my garden, drinking in the healthy growing plants that are supporting myriads of butterflies who are here this time every year.  Just wonderful.
 We have two male Red Winged Fairy Wrens along with females in the back garden at present.  They are competing with each other and trying to outsing each other which gives us the pleasure of hearing their wonderful melodies.
 I said hello to the chickens and the duckies.  The chickens now have names, Riley and Stevie have decided that they are Jacinta, Ivy and Twinkles.  :-)
 We are very excited about these luscious red globes.  These are the first fruit from our Flavortop nectarine tree.  Not many, perhaps a dozen, and we ate our first one this morning.  So much flavour, absolutely delicious!
 I said hello to the vegie patch that's looking healthy and happy.  I think the sweetcorn has grown a metre in the last few weeks!!
 I said hello to my garden gate that I have adorned with the mandala I was making before Xmas.  I love it there, I know it will wear out in the weather, but it makes me happy to see it every morning when I wander through this garden to get to the chook pen.
 In close-up.  Gosh I love mandalas, and if any of you have a hankering to crochet one like this, the free pattern is here - Starflower Mandala pattern
 And speaking of mandalas and crochet, let me show you what the postman sent me from Wool Warehouse in UK!  I was given a gift voucher for Xmas by Michelle and I had the most wonderful time deciding on the colours to order to complement what I already had.  This is my complete stash of Stylecraft Special DK Acrylic yarn.  I always poo pooed acrylic yarn, but this yarn is wonderful, so soft and good to work with, plus the added bonus of washability.  I am a convert!
 This is my colour palette (for now, til I order more ha ha).  I took this marvellous idea from the bestest crochet blog here - Attic 24.  Lucy showed photos of this great method for keeping tabs on your colours and how it helps to make decisions, by winding a small amount of yarn over pegs.  I didn't have pegs but Steve had plenty of long bits of scrap wood that he cut and smoothed down for me.
I don't know if you are getting it, that I am currently OBSESSED with crochet, I am all tingly and jumpy inside!  I have been planning a big crochet binge for months now, but first I made myself finish some knitting things like socks, and also this lace knitting scarf I made Michelle for her birthday.  It was almost the death of me, I kept losing my place, stuffing up and having to undo!  No-one could talk to me whilst I knitted it, and it was a bad bad idea to try drinking wine at the same time too! It turned out nicely in the end, I was very pleased with it, and Michelle likes it which is the main thing.
So, anyway, here I am ready to begin the big crochet binge, and I have something in mind.  After spending a lot of time on the internet, looking at photos and reading patterns, I am about to start a BIG MISSION, it's called Mandala Madness, website here if you are interested - Mandala Madness.  Basically it's another mandala, but this one ends up a massive 1.8 metres across, and is made up of zillions of rounds of different stitches!  Some people have made them with only a few colours, but others have gone to town and made wonderful colourful, happy creations.  And that's what I am going to do, which is why I had a buy up of many many colours, my Mandala Madness will be a riot of colour!  I have to cull my colours choices down to about 16 though, otherwise I will never be able to decide what to use.  I plan to start today, having been a good girl and done all the washing and cleaned the house, so I'll start posting a few progress photos on each blog post.