Saturday in the sunshine

The weather has been rather pleasant these last 3 or so days of Winter. I had to keep reminding myself that today was indeed still Winter. It felt more like we should have been in Continue reading

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Another weekend in Ballan

As I sit here stuffing my face with take-away Thai (my favourite red curry duck too) I reflect upon the amazing weekend just finished and try to remember everything we’ve done.

Mudbath anyone

The house is at the point of ordering tiles and it’s just about ready for painting. The bathroom has been stripped and is ready to be fitted out again and I’ve scored the old bath for the garden. It’s now full of soil and carrot and radish seeds and I’m hoping for a bumper crop. πŸ˜€

The only visible greenery being the capsicums

I also planted out some of our tomatoes on Friday- the German Johnson and the Red and Yellow Tommy Toes are in, along with the capsicums too. There’s not much to see though unless you look really closely, just a forest of stakes and a few small green plants at either end of the garden (the capsicums). The garden bed next to it is also for tomatoes but it won’t be planted out for a bit as the Siberian Tomato plants are just popping up now and bravely waving their cotyledon leaves in the morning sun. I’ll probably also plant some basil in there with them too, but not until the tomato plants get large enough to provide some shade. See how we and they go.

Saturday was a busy day. We actually managed to be on the road by about 8:30 thanks to the morning alarm clock coming in and hopping into bed with us at 5:50 and then proceeding to chat in her piping (and occasionally piercing) little voice and waking her brothers up. Thanks Allegra. We made good use though and managed to be on the road in good time to make the produce swap at the Ballarat Community Gardens. I made some fantastic swaps – organic sourdough starter with some freshly ground organic rye flour for the first feeding and a few dollars in donation to the gardens exchanged for a huge bunch of parsley, some lemon balm, 2 litres of worm wee, a punch of parsnips, 3 GIANT spring onions (about the size of a super fat leek), a pot of oregano and some fantastic chats and great advice. We spent far too long there which curtailed our plans somewhat but it was well worth it. We headed into town and I got to go tile shopping again. I’ve picked out my kitchen and bathroom tiles. The bathroom is pretty much plain but the kitchen will have a swanky little border. I’ve seen all sorts of lovely tiles and some gorgeous feature tiles used for splash backs but sadly none of them worked with our choice of bench tops but I am as happy as pie with the border. πŸ˜€

We ran out of time for carpet decisions but I know what I want so it’s planned for tomorrow and hopefully it won’t take long. From there we went and chatted with the heater company in regards to our solar hot water and after a quick chat with our plumber we will be ready to go with that too. This is our first eco utility if you like so it’s a big deal. πŸ˜€ Even though our water and the gas boost both still rely upon external supplies, it will be a vast improvement on the existing electric system and I’m hoping by keeping the water temperature level as low as we reasonably can, we will hopefully only use a little, if any gas.

Back to Ballan we went, grabbing some lunch on the way. We didn’t spend long there as Martin had planned a day mowing but sadly he wasn’t able to get Trevor running and the mower packed it in too. He whipper snipped until evening and caught the train back. In the meantime, I spent the afternoon in the garden in our current house with the kids, retrofitting our current chicken pen to cope with an influx of 9 more chicks which I will pick up tomorrow morning. πŸ™‚ Yay. πŸ˜€

Head to toe with mud!

Today was the day to fix the mower (achieved), mow back the rest of the grass that needed clearing in order to put up the fence (nearly done) and get started on clearing and fitting out the new chicken shed and run (achieved). My parents were coming up to have a sticky nose at our new house and check out all we’ve been talking about for months (they’ve been overseas) but before they arrived I planted a heap of onions, some chives, spring onions, radishes, 16 paper pots of corn seedlings, 3 of zucchini and 3 watermelon seedlings too. Again, not much to see unless you’re up close, but they’re in, and their roots are free to find soil so I’m expecting to see some vigorous growth now.Β I was allowed to use Martin’s new toy, the pressure washer, which helped me to quickly clear the 2 inch thick mud off the cement in the shed. Poor Dad found himself clearing out ripped up and pummeled into the mud carseats and all the rest of the debris left there. He too had a go with the pressure washer and was as loath to share as I had been. It’s kinda fun. lol

I also won my eBay bid on a 1000L water tank which nearly complicated things as we were offered pick up this evening by 5:30. It was 4:45 and still in Ballan. 10 minutes to clear up, put stuff in the car or house, dress the kids (they’d been running around after having had a swim in our half wine barrel) and drive for 40 minutes to pick it up (5 minutes drive from our current home). Surprisingly we made it on time, so I am now the proud owner of a square galvanised steel framed water tank for my chicken pen. Just need to add a few metres of guttering to the roof and we will be harvesting their drinking water from the roof of their home.

Well, I’m off for an early night tonight. I have chickens to pick up in the morning with 3 kids in tow and a car to pack tonight. Zausted!

A whirlwind weekend and some huge achievements

Wow! What a weekend! Again! We seem to be having a few “wow” weekends these days. πŸ˜€ First of all, let me just say….

Drumroll please…

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

We bought a TRACTOR! :O

Trevor the Bolens tractor

Yes, we bought a tractor. Now before you get all “they only have a 1/2 acre, what on earth do they need a tractor for” on me, it’s ok. It’s not a big tractor. In fact it’s one of the most pint sized tractors I have ever seen that isn’t made of plastic. πŸ˜€ He is the size of a ride-on mower and that’s in fact the reason we bought him, but Trevor is in fact a tractor with a slasher/mower attachment that goes underneath. It comes off though and we will be able to use Trev for other things like towing a small trailer (still looking for that) which means he can haul wood, compost or anything else we can think of. The kids love him, and Jas helped name him.

Trevor the traction engine from Thomas the Tank Engine series.

Boys and their toys πŸ˜‰

Jasper loves Trevor

Allegra loves Trevor too

Boys and their toys starting young. Orik loves Trevor and we’re fighting to keep him from climbing up of his own accord.

In other exciting news… πŸ˜‰

We have a kitchen! Lee has finished installing the kitchen and I must say it looks absolutely AMAZING!

Old kitchen

New kitchen. Not quite completed in this picture but since finished

I am in LURVE! On the left are my pantries. There are 4 narrow deep drawers for storing bulk rice, flour, wheat and rye (or maybe pasta) and then the narrow but wider drawers above will hold potatoes and onions. Then there are the shelves for storing the bounty of our summers harvest (here’s hoping) through bottling, drying and pressure canning. At the moment I have taken up some of my Fowlers Vacola preserving jars but given the space in those shelves, I will need MANY more jars πŸ˜€

The rest of the weekend was filled with finishing (although not yet completing planting) the veggie gardens, digging out the grapes bed and planting about 150 Erlicheer bulbs (yes I know they’re VERY late but one doesn’t look a gift horse of 600 free bulbs in the mouth), getting 2 loads of compost and a bale of straw, setting the veggie garden gate posts in concrete and of course, the endless job of mowing mowing mowing.

My grapes are bursting into leaf!

150 Erlicheer bulbs

The last of the veggie beds, my 3 spud boxes and compost bin. Along the left hand side is the beans garden.

We planned to choose tiles and carpet on Saturday morning but discovered that, unlike the Big Smoke, shops still close at lunchtime on Saturdays and don’t open on Sundays! It’s wonderful but it will take a slight mental adjustment. We did manage to get some floor tile samples and I think we have our chosen tile but having 5 minutes to run in and choose whilst the shop owner reopens the store for you is not conducive to a thorough search of the tiles. I need to choose splashbacks and bathroom tiles anyway so hoping I can convince a friend to come with us for babysitting purposes. Not sure taking children into a tile shop is a good idea. Well, not my 3 anyway. At least the carpet shop has a play area.

Moving day looks like it will be 2-3 weeks now which is scary and exciting all at the same time. I have a lot of packing to do and we have a LOT of stuff to move. At least now that the kitchen is installed I can start taking up excess pantry items and the rest of my preserving gear.

Fencing and the chicken run are our next big jobs. I need to finish the fence that sections off the veggie garden (mainly to keep the kids out) and now that the posts are sunk and cemented in I can attack that. Then once the gate is on we’re ready to go. A friend has offered to come and help/teach us to put up ringlock fencing along the creek. Martin is madly trying to at least mow a cleared swathe where we want it to go so that we can borrow/hire a post hole digger and get the posts in. I really don’t fancy digging them by hand after the hard yakka from last time. Mark will then help us with the star pickets and the ringlock itself. We have had to take a step back in regards to the chook shed though. There is a lean to kind of shed already on the property which we were intending to convert to a wood shed but with time constraints and other more pressing jobs, as well as it being absolutely perfect for the job, this shed will become the chickens home. I still intend to dabble in superadobe at some time in the future, just won’t be quite yet sadly. I need to add in a 2nd story (divide it in half) inside the shed, add perches and keep a space to add nesting boxes in the future (6-8 week old chicks won’t need nesting boxes for a few months) and then add in a door and fence off their run. We also plan to keep a couple of ducks so our half wine barrel will become their swimming area. Fencing the chicken run will involve more post hole digging and digging a trench around a foot deep so that the chicken wire will go down into the ground in an attempt to foil any crafty foxes that may come prowling. We hope that the presence of 3 large dogs next door may also help deter any members of the Vulpes family. It’s going to be a busy busy weekend over Melbourne Cup weekend. Thanks goodness for a 4 day weekend.

The beans bed and the fencing. And the shed in the background which will become the chickens new home.

Also got my pumpkins and onions planted, and their are even more potatoes sprouting up through their lucerne bedding. Zucchinis are starting to peek up through the soil and there are even more corn plants sprouting up like little green needles. My tomato seedlings are sprouting their second set of true leaves and the siberian tomatoes are starting to poke out of the soil too. My watermelons are still deciding whether or not to forgive me for transplanting them. Their cotyledon leaves died and the stems withered a little but there are some true leaves showing so I am holding out a little hope. My capsicum seedlings are doing well and looking lush and green in their punnet and I have HEAPS of broccoli seedlings that have nearly bounced up out of the soil too. My sunflowers are also beginning to grow their true leaves and the lettuces are continuing to provide a bounteous crop. I also have 4 strawberry flowers on 1 plant! I was going to pinch them off to give the plant the best go at doing its thing but reckon the kids will enjoy far more if I let them ripen. Next year I will plant a whole tonne of alpine strawberries I think – they’re the best cold climate strawberry and are supposed to be deliciously sweet. All my other plants are doing well and I am nearly ready to harvest my first few rocket leaves too. πŸ˜€ Spring has most definitely sprung!

Well, I’m off to enjoy the sunshine with my children. πŸ˜€

Operation Homestead: Days 15 & 16

What a weekend! Yet again, exhausted but elated and we have made some real progress that is hugely visible. Don’t you hate when you slave away at something but at the end there really isn’t an awful lot to show for the work invested? Β This weekend, in fact the whole week has left a very visible mark on the house and gardens. πŸ˜€

Yesterday was a day of showers. Not particularly warm (although not cold either) and it couldn’t decide if it wanted to shower or not. I was also down with a rotten headache and sore neck (hence the headache) and after a night of broken sleep from Orik who is attempting to cut 3 molars all at once, it wasn’t the best of days. Still, I managed to work on the defencing of the gardens. I didn’t get to impale but did remove many of the palings at least. πŸ˜‰ Martin, due Β the warmer weather forecast today and with summer just around the corner, continued to focus on the grass. Mowing a 1/2 acre of foot high grass is no mean feat at the best of times, but when it’s wet and hiding all sorts of things like empty buckets, broken pipes, carpet, rotted down carseats and plenty of rocks and tree stumps, well, let’s just say he has the patience of a saint. He was also watching the kids as I was working out the front. And poor Orik took a faceplant onto theΒ bitumen, breaking his fall and slide with his nose. Poor bubba. 😦 We headed home about 4:30 with grumpy kids and a cranky headachey me. Frustrating kind of day.

Today more than made up for the frustrations and disappointments of yesterday though. We arrived up there armed with food supplies and snags to have a little barbecue with friends and I had a run to Gordon, a nearby town to grab some give away pots of currant cuttings. I came home with 4 pots of currants, both red and black, some of which are even fruiting (yay πŸ˜€ ) and 2 pots of thornless blackberries, all of which will be planted and trained over the fences (when we get them). What a wonderful score. πŸ™‚

The afternoon involved 3 kids behaving themselves very well, a LOT more mowing being achieved, a side fence almost completely removed, a temporary fence being installed and more. No spuds up yet but their beds are nice and toasty under the lucerne mulch and the veggie beds are rotting down nicely. Soon they will be ready for planting. Maybe another week or two until the end of the frosts? Oh I hope so.

The pile of rubbish removed and the fencing to the near left that is now completely gone.

Work on the house has progressed too. Our builder, John, started work on Wednesday. In 3 days he has finished clearing out the kitchen, stripped all the floors out (tiles, floating floorboards and a bit of remaining underlay), removed the old wardrobes and built the framework for our walk in robes, removed the wardrobe in what will be Jasper’s room, changed the wardrobe in what will be Allegra’s room to be a wardrobe for both Jasper and Allegra’s room (it was too deep and just wasted space before – now it’s 2 useable wardrobes), cleared out the laundry and bathroom and removed all the broken doors.

The exciting part is that my kitchen should be ready to go in next week and be finished the week after! Paint colour has been chosen so I need to get a move on and work out tiles and carpet now.

Well, the children are all asleep and I’m not far off sleep either. A few more pictures of our work and the property and our family.

Some very temporary fencing. It’s enough to keep Orik in and slow Jasper and Allegra.

My little poser πŸ˜‰

My poor bubba getting ready for bed with the grazes of the road on his nose.

Jasper flaked!

Our creek