The last week and a bit

The last week has been one of the most intense in a long time. It’s been a week of sadness, of joy, learning and sharing and most importantly, a week of family. Continue reading

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Cup Day in the sun

Melbourne Cup Day, the first Tuesday in November is a special day for those in the Melbourne metropolitan area as it’s a public holiday. The only one in the second half of the year (nothing between the Queens birthday weekend and Christmas) thanks to Show Day holiday in September being canned. 😦

Many people take the Monday off work to make it a 4 day weekend and that’s what Martin did. We’ve spent the weekend preparing for snake season and clearing away the wood piles and branches littering the front and back gardens. Tuesday however I had the invitation to spend some time visiting a friend and fellow blogger Lynda from Living in the Land of Oz fame. I left home not long before 10, arriving in time for a cuppa and to meet Lynda’s lovely sister and her sisters gorgeous grand kids. They headed out for a tour-de-parks and Lynda and I headed out to the gardens to hear their plans and ideas for transforming more of their garden into a food production paradise. Something new here, more gardens there, and some fun ideas over there too. All I can say is watch her blog space. 🙂

First stop after the patio area was to a small rather large treat saved for me and protected by a punnet placed on top. A strawberry of rather generous proportions, almost glowing in its delicious ripeness, sending out its siren scent of freshness and all with my name on it! I picked it, photographed it and munched it. Mmmmmm 🙂

This is the strawberry that Lynda grew.

This is the strawberry that Lynda grew.

On to the other beds which I admired with nothing feigned. Lynda has great gardens and will have a great crop to harvest over the Summer and into Autumn for sure. 🙂 Lynda’s overall garden space was much smaller than I’d thought based upon the photos I’ve seen which makes it even more impressive to see what produce comes from her garden, what massive veggies and how many self seeded plants (weeds if you like ;)) in her beds too.

Lunch was delicious with chicken meatballs, lamb chops, potato salad and cooked tomatoes, ginger beer to wash it down and great conversation and laughs with which to enjoy it all. It was a delicious lunch and I had a lovely time. 😀

Never give up hope. This is the lesson I've learned in the garden of late. I replanted this rose bush even though I thought it likely to be dead (I did prune it rather hard) and it's done little since... Until now. I can't wait to see flowers.

Never give up hope. This is the lesson I’ve learned in the garden of late. I replanted this rose-bush even though I thought it likely to be dead (I did prune it rather hard) and it’s done little since… Until now. I can’t wait to see flowers.

Sadly I had a bit of a time limit on my visit. I couldn’t leave Martin with a list of jobs a mile long and 3 kids, all with colds, for the entire day. We loaded up all the gifts Lynda had for me. I’d dug out all her weeds (self seeded tomato plants ;)) to plant in my own gardens, loaded in a generously gifted Lemon Balm in a pot, a set of draws with shelves above, spring onion seeds and a huge bag of old towels and sheets for me to upcycle into kids pajamas and reusable “paper” towels and the like. 😀 All I had taken down was a carton of eggs, sadly not even full. 😦 Lousy swap on Lynda’s side of things hey. 😦

A watermelon! I figured none of the seeds would grow but waddaya know! Maybe there are more awaiting optimal conditions. :)

A watermelon! I figured none of the seeds would grow but waddaya know! Maybe there are more awaiting optimal conditions.

So, loaded up I headed off, this time to Melton to visit with Gav and Kim. I had a few things to pick up from them including cheese kit gear (curd nerd-ville here I come :D) and it was a nice day to have a cool drink poolside. Sadly I couldn’t spend the time I would have liked with my friends as I was already later than I had planned getting home, so I bid them farewell and headed off home.

Arriving home I discovered my amazing husband had cleaned the kitchen, washed all the dishes and was working his way through the vacuuming! Well impressed. 😀 And grateful too. 🙂

This is the strawberry that I grew. Divided into 4 (a slice each for the kids and I) it didn't go very far but oh my the taste was divine!

This is the strawberry that I grew. Divided into 4 (a slice each for the kids and I) it didn’t go very far but oh my the taste was divine! Bit smaller than the whopper Lynda grew and saved for me.

We finished off mulching the branches (thanks to our handyman) and Martin spent some more time sawing up the wood pile until a part went missing from the chainsaw (seriously, power tools in our house cause more angst than anything :() and although I wouldn’t say we’re exactly snake proofed I know we’ve put in 4 solid days of attending to and dealing with much of what we needed to around the garden. 🙂

I thought I’d share this idea I’ve had with you all. I’ve been addressing my perceptions of things. Snakes, sharks, carnivorous dinosaurs (Jas is right into dinosaurs at the moment) have an image of being evil but they’re not really. They do what they do because that’s what they do, nothing more. A snake will bite if it feels threatened. Some more so than others (brown snakes are rather aggressive) but they are not evil because of that. It’s taking some time to adjust my thinking on this but we do now live in the country and I guess every area has its risks. Country locations have their snakes, the city has its traffic. Some areas are prone to storms, others to long hot dry summers, others to monsoonal rains and cyclones and many of our beaches are visited by sharks, including those that will eat people. It’s about recognising this and adjusting ones thinking to fit in with Mother Nature, not expecting her to fit in with us. Sure I can do my best to snake proof our property (and I will) but I don’t have the right to expect never to see a snake. 🙂

Does that make sense?

A rough few weeks

It’s been a rough few weeks here really. Not all bad and not all negative but still and all, I’m looking forward to February very much as it means January will be over.

We added some more chickens to our flock last Friday, 5 more Dorkings (that’s the last of them) and 2 Chinese Silkies who will be our incubators next year. These 2 are also pets for the children. What funny sweet little things they are too. Sadly this morning when I went to check on the flock I was unable to find Mrs Silverpants, the children’s favourite silky. I eventually found her, drowned in the ducks swimming water. I have an awful feeling I heard her fall in last night too as I heard a squawk last night but figured it was the usual of a chook pecking another and thought nothing of it. The guilt this morning… And yes, I know. But I still feel awful. 😦 Blackie, our other little silkie is doing well without her companion fortunately, although I am on the hunt this morning for a replacement Mrs Silverpants. We also lost 2 of our Dorking chicks to Coccidiosis, a common enough illness that young chicks are susceptible to. That’s how John the chicken died. So yet again poor Jasper is trying to get his head around death. I am profoundly glad we kept the death of the 2 other chicks from him. 2 chicks dying has been enough to thoroughly upset him.

Mrs Silverpants (dec) and Blackie, our 10 week old Silkies

Mrs Silverpants (dec) and Blackie, our 10 week old Silkies

Martin has been working hard to clean up the last bits of the old house and get it ready to rent out. The Real Estate agents are coming out tomorrow to take photos and get it listed which is very exciting. John our builder and Martin have both done an amazing job and I am once again reminded of what an amazing husband I have. I am looking forward to having that house rented out and no longer being a drain on our time. We need to spend that time here. BOY do we need to spend the time here.

One of 2 frogs/toads found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds.

One of 2 frogs/toads found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds. I need to research my amphibians I think. 🙂

We’ve also come face to face with the information that there are venomous snakes within 50 metres of our house, a though that is sending chills through every inch of my body. Our neighbours have had to deal with the snake bites in their livestock and although we don’t know which species it is we do know that its bite is fatal to a half-grown bull calf and is likely to be a Tiger snake or a Brown snake or possibly a Copperhead too as I believe all of these are indigenous to the area. I tried my hardest to mow the vegetable garden grass yesterday but the mower hasn’t been working and conked out on me again yesterday after I got maybe 20% mowed. I’ll have another go today as tomorrow is going to be hot and that grass is LONG!

I had a bandicoot in my potato beds the other day and came away empty-handed. 😦 There may be spuds down further than I dug (I dug in about 9 inches) but it looks like the 1 thing I thought we would definitely harvest has not done what it was expected to do. The mulch layers haven’t rotted down like expected which is disappointing although I think I know where I’ve gone wrong. Once we do harvest anything that may be in there I’ll treat the 3 spud beds like compost bins and fill them up with the necessary before planting them with broad beans or the like. Hopefully by springtime I will have some compost that I can spread over the other garden beds.

I do have some good news to report though. I contacted my uncle on Saturday as we had recently purchased some used corrugated iron from him and we knew he had more. I gave him a call and teed up to purchase the rest and for once lady luck was on our side as he was driving from Bendigo to Warrnambool for work on Monday and offered to deliver it for us! We now have 30 or so sheets of corrugated iron, some ridge capping and a large metal tool box that he threw in thinking we could use it too. 😀 And at a bargain price including delivery as well! So, Monday morning saw me in the garden with a hand saw, tin snips, an impact driver, some roofing bolts/screws, some iron and the old red gum garden posts from the old home. With Orik in bed asleep the kids and I set to and built a raised garden bed to go int he greenhouse. We then loaded the trailer up with compost and filled the bed (again my wonderful husband helped here, shoveling most of a cubic metre in for us) before planting my mandarin tree (a gift from a friend who attended the home birth of Orik), the banana tree I bought from Diggers Club at St Erth the other day and a Lisbon lemon I bought last year from CERES which was pot-bound and on its last legs. Tuesday morning after we’d topped up the bed with some more soil we relocated some of the plants in the veggie garden which weren’t yet flowering and so won’t make harvest, into the greenhouse. We replanted several Siberian tomato plants and 8 or so capsicums and then filled in the gaps with seeds. We then planted radishes, carrots, purple beans, leeks, chives, rocket and coriander so hopefully in a month the greenhouse with be a verdant paradise of fresh smelling garden and burgeoning harvest. It was exciting and calming and very healing to get my fingers into the soil again. I most definitely need to do some more today. In fact the plan is to build another bed today once I finally wake up enough and locate my motivation (MUST get to bed before midnight).

Sawing red gum posts

Sawing red gum posts by hand. I used tin snips to cut the iron but no photos. Martin dislikes me using the more dangerous power-tools whilst I’m home alone.

Built garden bed installed in the greenhouse

Built garden bed installed in the greenhouse

 

Greenhouse garden planted out. Left to right are the mandarin, banana and lemon. Behind them the transplanted tomatoes, down the right are beans then capsicums. In front of the capsicums a row of radishes and a row of carrots in the middle, rocket up the back of the capsicums, then spinach planted to the left of the capsicums, then leeks in the sectioned off part, coriander behind the leeks and chives to the left. STILL more space for more seeds. :D

Greenhouse garden planted out. Left to right are the mandarin, banana and lemon. Behind them the transplanted tomatoes, down the right are beans then capsicums. In front of the capsicums a row of radishes and a row of carrots in the middle, rocket up the back of the capsicums, then spinach planted to the left of the capsicums, then leeks in the sectioned off part, coriander behind the leeks and chives to the left. STILL more space for more seeds. 😀

We also had a lovely visit from my parents on Sunday where we had a lovely and mostly local lunch in the garden. We had lamb riblets (the last of the non-organic lamb I had in the freezer) cooked in organic garlic, homegrown rosemary and home bottled tomatoes, served with fresh organic sourdough and salad. The salad was all organic or farmers market purchased (I’m not sure on the organic status of this stall) and it was all fresh and delicious. Dessert was sourdough cinnamon scrolls although calling them scrolls is more about their intended shape than the end result. Flopped scrolls still taste scrummy though. 🙂

Maxxie surveying his domain from on high.

Maxxie surveying our domain from on high.

Well, time to finish off the hot chocolate and get some shoes on and out in the garden or the day will be half gone. Not to mention the kids are driving me crazy to get out in the garden.

One of 2 frogs found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds.

One of 2 frogs found when we were relocating the Erlicheer bulbs to permanent beds.

Tired

I am tired. Exhausted, pooped, weary (my Papa used to say he was weary – sorry, nostalgic moment 🙂 ), worn out, buggered, stuffed, knackered, all done in, fried, zonked, shattered. I am also elated, stoked, happy, pleased, proud, satisfied, contented, over the moon. It’s been a busy weekend.

Achievements this weekend include finishing the chook pen. Ok, so it’s not quite ready for them to move in but the fences are el completo, the door is up, although not yet lockable and the nesting boxes and perch are in. The nesting boxes are an upcycle job from junk existing left at the house. It was one of those shelves that are all boxed in (if that makes sense) so it’s been turned on its side, I’ve attached (ok, Martin attached) 2 bits of 2 by 4 to stick up in the air and after a large hole was drilled through, a piece of chopped down poplar branch was jammed in and drilled into place. Total cost? A few cents of electricity to run the drill and a few screws, non of which were actually bought for the job but lying around from previous jobs. It weighed a tonne so a bit of Egyptian engineering helped us manoeuvre it into place.

Rolling…

Rolling…

 

Rolling…

Martin also managed to get Trevor working again. He’s since mowed most of the grass flat again and made it worth while digging out the whipper snipper again too. The garden is looking a LOT neater and the snake risk is much lower. This has definitely been on the brain a lot of late as there is a snake road kill on the road into town that has had us both on the watch. Now that the grass is too short for them to hide in though we are both beginning to relax. Well, at least a little. Sadly, Trevor hit a stump and broke the belt that runs the mowing attachment. He can’t mow right at the moment but he’s earned his keep hauling a hole lot of crap and junk out of the creek. Sadly the fallen tree was a little too ambitious. Worth a try though.

I also got stuck into some planting. With the help of a few more loads of soil, the north and east sides of the chook pen are tyred in place (take THAT Mr Fox) and planted out too. There are a few tyres on the south side so, planted in anti clockwise order are: 3 tyres of marigolds, oregano, curry bush, thyme, rosemary, 2 with pyrethrum, curly leaf parsley, 2 more pyrethrum, then the rest either have sunflower seeds or sunflower seedlings planted. They will become chook food once ripe and hopefully a wonderful beneficial bugs only invite too (no shirt, no shoes, no service unless you’re a beneficial bug 😛 ).

These are some of my marigolds. More to be planted in the tomato beds and in the rest of the tyres along this south side of the chook pen when I get more soil and newspapers. 🙂

My pot-bound and water starved oregano has responded well to being planted and watered (funny about that) and the curry bush I struck from a sprig a few years ago.

Wonderful smelling thyme which was also very potbound and neglected before being repotted in anticipation of the move and is thriving even more with just a little love, next to the rosemary I also struck from a sprig of a rosemary that was all woody and near the end of its life (it died within 6 months of me taking the cutting)

2 pyrethrum, a parslet looking a bit sad and sorry for itself and 2 more pyrethrum. They will make a wonderful and natural organic and safe insecticide. Well, safe for us anyway. Sorry bugs.

Sunflowers…

… More sunflowers…

 

… And even more sunflowers! All for chook food. 🙂

I also planted out another of my no dig beds. This one is currently half full of purple sprouting broccoli seedlings. I will add some other brassicas in there too to fill up the bed. Only one more to plant out now, the second tomato and capsicum bed. I’ll also be planting some more marigolds in there as they are of assistance to tomato plants from what I’ve read. The tomatoes all got a water with Epsom Salts too. It’s supposed to be liquid gold for marties. We will see how they like it.

Kind of hard to see and some were looking a little worse for wear but we will see how they go.

 

My tomatoes and capsicums… Some are doing really well but some of the capsicums are looking pretty sad and some of the tomatoes haven’t grown much.

The mulberry tree is absolutely covered in fruit too. I am most impressed and will be planting a LOT more of them (they’re water hungry which makes them a good replacement tree for the silver poplars and they can be harvested for us to eat (and thoroughly enjoy I might add) as well as providing food for the chooks with any fallen fruit.

Not bad at all for its first year planted in our garden.

And even more on the higher shoots

The radishes are growing well and I may also have a few carrot seedlings coming up. It’s hard to tell at this point and they may well be radish seeds that got washed out of line. Time will tell.

Ooo I hope they are carrots.

Beans and spuds are doing very well too.

The kids have had a ball too. They’ve spent a good deal of time in various states of undress or swimming attire and playing  in the half wine barrel of water. They’ve had bike washes (they had their balance bikes and rode them through their bike wash 🙂 ), baby wash (Orik seemed to enjoy it too), a couple of friends over to visit and a lot of running around and playing.

I also had the pleasure of meeting one of my blog readers today who is a resident (and a rather new but extremely knowledgeable one at that) of Ballan. I’ve come away relaxed after an hour off from the kids and working, well welcomed to Ballan by jelly slice and a simply divine hot chocolate from Michellez cafe (near the butchers) and feeling like I know some more people and things going on in the community. I was also introduced to some further locals and I feel very much more like a local now too. We discussed blogs too. Check out her blog here. The offers of help have absolutely blown us away too. Thank you so much!

Anyway, my brain is totally fried and I can no longer see to type so I’ll pick this up in the morning.

Night all.

 

Slept like a log! Best nights sleep in ages. Can’t imagine why. 😉

So, what else happened on the weekend? Well, our chooks have been on the blink as far as laying eggs goes. I was pretty certain they had a hidden stash but I had been unable to find it. They haven’t been showing any signs of being broody – in fact I think they’ve all decided to be career chooks this year. If I’d seen signs of dedicated desire for motherhood I may well have sourced some eggs but alas it’s not played out that way yet. Anyway, on Saturday, through sheer luck I happened to be doing the egg hunt and just happened to see through the grass and spot an egg. I pulled away the grass then ran inside to get 2 egg cartons. I found 15 eggs! Yep, 15! Not a bad haul from 3 girls who probably lay ever 2nd day each. The best bit is they all passed the float test. 😀

15 pekin bantam eggs to add to the 2 I collected this morning and the 2 others I had in the fridge… I also have 15 organic eggs I’d ordered (Aussie Farmers) before I found the giant haul. 34 eggs. Quiche?

I’ve also noticed that more of our ‘fwowers’ are coming up. The ‘sturshuns’ have popped their heads up, the ‘I yisten’ is well and truly up too. I’m hoping to move my seedlings up to Ballan this week as we are at the point I can begin to move up a LOT more boxes so I think we might end up doing a few more trips each week which will allow me to water the seedlings when I’m up there.

We’ve also decided upon names for the various areas of our property. Our house has been named, as has the chook house and the veggie garden. I’m sure the shed will earn itself a moniker once it’s built too but in the meantime, I’m off to go and make some signs for the chook shed and veggie garden. I’ll share details once they’re done and not before so no asking. 😉

Well, the morning has disappeared and it’s time for lunch. I have small people reminding me of this fact with increasing frequency. What is it about 4 year olds who are permanently hungry? Bread rising, yoghurt culturing, about to start souring a chocolate cake starter too to trial sourdough chocolate cake (it seems almost anything is possible with sourdough).

So, what did you all get up to on the weekend?

A 4th birthday and the making of a jacket

My baby boy turns 4 today. Or, another way to look at it is, I became a mother 4 years ago today. At 2:03am on August 8th 2008 I first met a pair of crystal blue eyes attached to what was then my red headed baby boy. We’ve so far, managed to keep his birthday in line with our lifestyle choices too. His gifts have either been made from sustainable materials or have been second hand or upcycled (or all of the above).

Martin is from the UK originally and his family are still over there so rather than pay exorbitant postage fees and rack up carbon miles, Omi transfers some money for us to buy the children a gift. We decided to give him some tools from us which will help him in assisting us when we move to Ballan. He is now set up with a child sized metal wheelbarrow, rake, hoe and shovel and he already has some gardening gloves and will get other hand tools too when I find them. He also just opened a lovely gift from his Nanna – a set of dominos and a card arrived in the mail with some chives, sunflowers and radishes in there too. PERFECT for him to grow and the radishes will provide some nearly instant results too. Reckon I might see if we can grow 5 to an orange juice container. 🙂

Boring jacket

Other than that I made him a jacket. Well, upcycled his existing denim jacket is probably more precise. It was a great denim jacket that someone had clearly outgrown which I picked up for a few dollars some time back. It was however, bland and in need of some personalisation. So, since Jasper loves diggers and construction vehicles and such I added some decorations. And thanks to my friend Emma from Made Emwho made the buttons for Jasper’s birthday too. They absolutely make it all work.

And the back

Anyway, we’ve done some gardening today too – planted Rocket, Pyrethrum (a natural insecticide plant) and some Chamomile. Not sure how the Rocket will go as the seeds are well past their best before date but hey, waste not want not and if nothing sprouts I can use the soil for Jasper’s radishes. 🙂 Off to cook the requested pizza for dinner – could be interesting as I only have ham, salami, onion and cheese.