4 whole days!

We’ve been cursed blessed with a 4 day weekend. The first Tuesday in November is the Melbourne Cup and the Race-that-stops-a-nation stops many businesses on this first Tuesday with a public holiday. It often cripples these same businesses for the whole week too. Monday, because everyone wants a long weekend and takes it with either a holiday or a sickie (holiday day booked for us), Wednesday due to the hangovers for those that imbibed a little too much on Tuesday, Thursday due to Oaks Day AKA Ladies Day at the races (further holidays or sickies) and Friday for the same reasons as Wednesday. I’ve never been to the races I must say, although I do usually watch it on the telly. It’s just not my thing.

A public holiday is most definitely my thing though. πŸ˜€

So, with a four day weekend at our fingertips, you can imagine all we were able to achieve.

Firstly, our house is ready for its bathroom vanity, some suede paint sanding back and then it’s time for painting. πŸ˜€ Tiles will be ordered this week and hopefully will be ready for laying next week.

Pretty flowering Hawthorn

With vicious thorns

The garden though has been our domain. Yesterday we were very blessed to be able to borrow a post hole digger so my wonderful hubby dug 14 holes for me. 13 plus an oops. Today we got busy with poles and concrete. I hate the idea of using concrete but the other option, rammed earth, really isn’t practical for us in a time sense. It was one of those kinda hafta times. 😦 We did recycle fence posts wherever possible though so my chook pen will have a swish green entrance. We also had to decide where we were going to build our bridge over the creek to the rest of our block which is currently a tangle of towering poplar trees, vicious Hawthorns and a tonne of long grass, forget-me-knots and sticky weed. Clearing it is a task for next year, but we need to do a little planning at least. And we DO have to clear this side of the creek this year. So, in our search for the easiest place to build a bridge we got stuck into hacking back the hawthorn. Out came the chainsaw and whilst the kids amused themselves playing in the water in the wine barrel bath, we started hacking back this beautiful beautiful plant. And then it BIT us! The wretched things have inch long thorns at the base of every set of leaves. I jammed one of the thorns deep into the pad of my left hand and the tip broke off in there. Over the day it got more and more painful. Sore, inflamed and so so tender that driving was hard, let alone picking up the kids. I attacked it several times with tweezers and a needle and FINALLY managed to extract nearly 3mm of thorn that had been stuck in there. Not nice no matter how pretty they are when in bloom. Their days are numbered… I’m thinking wattle might be a pretty replacement.

Chicken run posts.

The results of getting the posts concreted in is huge though. We have 2 more to go (ran out of concrete) but we can start with the ringlock fencing wire now and I can get to digging the trenches between the poles for burying the chicken wire (fox prevention) and start enclosing the chicken run. We’re on very borrowed time now as the temporary housing for the chicks and our existing chickens will fast become crowded.

Digging holes and boys toys all in one.

I had 3 butternut pumpkin seedlings in desperate need of planting too but nowhere left to plant them. I decided upon a temporary garden bed which, since pumpkins do nothing more than put down their roots before heading off to take over the garden, will do just fine for this year. I dug out a small area, lined it with newspaper and filled it with soil and compost and planted in the butternuts. In other seedling news, my tomatoes have absolutely thrived. Some of them were VERY small when they went in on Friday but I swear they have all grown another set of leaves in the 5 days since then! :O You were so right Ingrid and I will be planting out the rest of my baby marties as soon as they show something more than just cotyledon leaves. The capsicums are looking good too, as are the corn and zucchinis I planted on Saturday. The onions planted last week seem to have been hit or miss though. Some are looking very healthy, others I can’t find. Time will tell how they go, and if you’re into moon gardening, the waning moon should help them being root plants. My watermelons are not loving me at all though sadly. 1 looks like it will not last out the week although the other 2 appear that they may just make it. Here’s hoping at least one makes it.

Other achievements involved getting the water tank for the chooks in place, picking up our 9 silver dorking 6 week old chicks yesterday (there is a little expected friction between the older girls who are locked out to free-range during the day as the little girls are locked in), jet washing off more of the side decking area, unpacking my pressure canner and some more preserving jars, chucking a load of washing in the machine (sadly the household chores don’t stop whilst we play up at Ballan), pruning (very carefully) the hawthorn back so we can access more area to mow and chainsaw, pruning the poplars to allow more access into the shady areas, finishing off a portion of the veggie garden fence and of course, time spent with the kids. Today was time for crayon graffiti on an old wardrobe door brought outside as well as heaps of help from them too (Jas moved a heap of chopped up branches for us and they both pitch in with digging). It’s been a crazy 4 days and the best news is we get to do another 2 days of it all in only 3 more sleeps. Yay. (insert enthusiasm tinged with just a little sarcasm).

A few more pictures…

Cleared to the creek. So beautiful

We can see through the trees now yay

Not yet sure what this tree/shrub is but it’s beautiful (not a blackberry I do know that at least)

Found some beautiful lichen but a photographer I am not.

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: I forgot the photos

Today was another crazy amazing day. Friends of ours were having a major blitz to get some of their house built and Martin was up helping them for Β the day so it was just the kids and I along with a head full of plans. And as per usual, the best laid plans and all that… lol

Started off baking up a storm Β 72 cheese and vegemite scrolls and 2 loaves of sourdough bread. Finally got moving and up to pick up some more compost. Arrived at the house and started to take down the dog shelter which will be repurposed into a temporary hen house and later a wood shed. In the mean time, the reinforced mesh had to come down so we can finish cleaning up and then mow in there. To my surprise, I found an egg! A quick float check in a bucket of water revealed that it was fresh so I returned it to its rightful owners, our neighbours whose Isa Brown houdinis had been finding their way onto our block. Looks like the fence was fixed just in time, well as far as it goes for their egg supplies at least.

I was interrupted in my work by the arrival of my kitchen. MAJOR SQUEEEEE! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ Installation will happen next week but every beautiful piece of it is here.

The afternoon was made considerably easier by Orik having a nice long nap and the kids playing relatively nicely. I dug 2 holes for my veggie garden gate posts and laid in my last no-dig garden bed (just need to get some more mulch to top them off) – a long one to run alongside the veggie garden fence, using the fencing for trellis for this years beans. I am hoping to sink in another post and string up some fencing wire, possibly ringlock (I’ve been having lessons in fencing terminology) this week. I also finished ripping down the last 2 feet of wooden fencing so that is FINALLY done. Another job knocked off the list.

The best bit was the kids running around in the garden, helping to wet the paper for the garden beds, jumping on the trampoline like fiends and helping dig the post holes too. We had some funny as moments – I caught Jasper trying to cram 4 pieces of slice in his mouth all at once, Allegra’s major fixation with an indigo blue plastic bottle she found somewhere and her love of tipping out water (usually into car seat cup holders or internal car door handles 😦 ) and Orik who is loving playing in (and probably eating) the dirt. I just can’t wait until we are moved in and they can play in the garden every day.

Anyway, given everything that was going on (add a trip to Trentham and dropping some compost off to friends) I kinda sorta forgot to take any photos. So, despite getting nearly everything done that I planned, my plans for a photo montage post just didn’t happen. So in the interest of having SOME photo’s…

Ringlock fencing

An Isa Brown chicken

The post hole digger I used before I found that friends have a petrol powered one. Looking forward to not needing to use this again.