Monday, December 29, 2008

In memory of our chicks

Today is a sad day. When I went to the chook pen this morning to let the chooks out, I noticed the chicks weren't there. Being hen raised (not incubator) the chicks were the only ones of our flock to roost in trees occasionally, which they'd been known to do during the day, so we supposed they hadn't gone in that night with the others but roosted (which means they should have been safe.) The picture above is an old one. They have grown a fair bit - proper wings and feathers. Young poulets really though we still call them the chicks.

Those of you who have met the chicks know that they were allowed to free range, because they weren't causing damage like the others (who were limited to the pen and orchard). We often find them joining us out in the garden later in the morning after their morning forage. By mid morning I got anxious enough to do a thorough search of the property because I couldn't see them or hear them. Sure enough, beneath the grevillea hedge are the scattered feathers, some in clumps which we all know to mean 'fox attack'.

I have to admit I had a good bawl. Me, who was intent on not becoming attached to them because we knew a few were roosters and destined for the pot. But as I found the feathers of 'Blacky' (silently named, as we never 'gave' them names intentionally), and found the down from the one I thought of as the 'mafia chick' because of it's moustache shaped combs, I realised I had done the unthinkable and had thought of them as pets as much as stock.

It is just so disappointing. All that work by Stormy, the mother hen. And all the hours we spent watching them, and laughing at their antics in the mulch and garden. Few domestic birds are allowed to roam as ours did. What a shame.

What have we learned? Clip chicks wings (they were able to get in and out by flying) and keep them in the orchard with the others. It may not be as fun but it's safe.

Our only consolation (as if there is one really) is that for the brief time they lived, they were the happiest chicks we've ever met.

For now, just feeling very very sad. :(

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mystery of the Levitating Leaf

Saw this leaf from a distance and just had to go investigate.

Turns out it was being used by an Orb Weaver Spider. It looks like she has gone down to the ground, picked up the leaf and attached it to a thread of web in order to use the leaf as an anchor for her main web which was a couple of metres up above. I tried to take some shots of the spider, but it's 8pm and the light isn't any good for macro shots. Isn't she clever though?

Walking through the garden at this time of night is magical. The busy hum of the insects have died down, but all the spiders are out (including the Jewel/Christmas spiders) everywhere quietly but busily making their webs for the night. As I walked I spotted a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on our Buddleia. We get a lot of Wanderer butterflies but this is the first time I've seen a Monarch. The lighting was poor, hence the blurriness, but here is the shot I managed to get.

Will try for some shots of the Jewel Spiders tomorrow.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Djingle Bells, Djingle Bells!

Well Christmas has come and gone. Phew! With all our preparations I missed sending all the International family and friends cards this year. Will make it up to them with a letter in a week or so I promise!
Christmas at our place went remarkably well. It was actually really mellow and low stress on the day, thanks to everyone bringing a dish. All 40 odd guests fitted comfortably in the space. The weather was perfect, 28degrees with a cool breeze in the arvo, ideal for having lunch out on the decking. And the kids were entertained all day by their lovely cousins whom they adore. Sigh :).

Today was spent clearing away most of the mess, at our leisure and looking after my friend's two beautiful munchkins so she could spend some time with her parents (who are both unwell). After a hyperactive morning (mostly on the part of our kids not hers) they all settled and we have spent a wonderful afternoon playing games, eating popcorn and getting double the amount of kids ready for dinner, bath and bed. I think it was fluke, but it all went really smoothly. All tucked into bed now and sound asleep. :)

I take it back. Just checked. HERS are asleep...mine are stealing food out of the pantry and sticking scratch & sniff stickers on their wall.... quiet can be so deceiving!

The boys enjoyed their presents, and accepted without question that Santa's reindeer had left the deposits they found on the lawn (Shetland pony droppings kindly delivered by a friend while we were out to Christmas eve dinner). And as for me, I got seriously spoilt for Christmas receiving a Djembe from hubby and my Secret Santa (Uncle Gordon). It sounds wonderful, though with all the people about the last couple of days I still have yet to have a proper go on it. Can't very well pound away once the kids are in bed either. Aah, patience...

I feel more relaxed this holiday than ever before. Usually I don't feel this way until a week before holidays end, and then have to face work prep. This last week, busy as it has been has been wonderful. Having hubby home on holidays at the same time has been great.
And best of that it's all over, we have a gorgeous house and garden to sit back and relax in for the rest of the holidays. :)

To all of you out there - I hope you had as wonderful a Christmas as we did. :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Another thermomix post

The Crone at Wits End (see sidebar) just wrote about her decision NOT to get a Thermomix. Until her post I'd never even heard of one, then this afternoon my sister-in-law came up to help with christmas preparations, armed with her very own thermomix which she's had for a week.
Husband, who is a white goods addict instantly loved it, and he spent the afternoon trying to convince me we really should have one too. I have to admit I was impressed. In a very short space of time they had made delicious lemonade (fresh from our tree), fettuccini with zucchini (fresh pasta made on the spot), then ground our own flour to make wheat free icecream and custard. Amazing.

For a gluten free, keen to preserve etc household I can certainly see the benefits. We have tried to buy flours in bulk to save money and found they would go off. Grinding our own as we need them would be very useful. It also does rissotto really quick - and you don't have to stand by it for ever. Certainly would be easy coming home from work and making quicker dinners...

Hubby has promised this would mean seriously decluttering too - we could give away the breadmaker, juicer, grinder, etc (ie his white goods collection that is taking up so much cupboard space).

Sigh. Don't let my hubby come anywhere near you Crone. He'll convince you too!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our Gratitude Tree

We like the idea of Thanksgiving. I have an email pal in the US who writes to us each year of the wonderful preparations leading up to this festival, and the fun things her family do. Looking on the internet I've found lots of suggestions for kids too - like a turkey with each feather having something on it you're thankful for.

While we didn't want to take on the American version (our history being slightly..ahem..different!) we did feel the concept is a lovely one. Reflecting on things you are grateful for is something we all should do.

So we have made a 'Gratitude Tree' - and decorated it with our blessings. I must admit I got teary when younger munchkin, when asked what made him happy, replied 'Mum makes me happy!'. Any mum out there would understand how I felt at that moment. :)

It was interesting to see the things the kids mentioned. Other than Mum and Dad, the rats got an honourable mention, as did homemade biscuits!

Even the last minute decision to have christmas at our house has been counted as a blessing - nothing like visitors to motivate you to spruce the place up. The hallway (after 5 years ....) has now been painted! Pictures are up, the decking has been oiled, bricks raised, garden beds mulched and the dog washed!

Not sure Zac the dog would have included that on his gratitude leaf!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Peach and Rhubarb fool.

We had this for dessert TWICE last week because it was so delicious. Perfect for a summer evening. The recipe is adapted from a Jamie Oliver one- in his 'Jamie at Home' book.

I'm going to be rough with measurements because it was a throw together thing both times!

You need: Some rhubarb, sugar, peaches (or any stone fruit would do), natural yoghurt, honey.

1. Chop the rhubarb, place it into a small saucepan and add some sugar (this is to taste - mine was about 1/3 cup for 5 big rhubarb stalks). Cook it until it's all soft and mushy.

2. While that's going - mix the honey and yoghurt (again to taste).

3. Slice/chop peaches.

4. By now the rhubarb's probably ready - be careful not to burn it!

5. In some large wine glasses or parfait glasses, layer yoghurt, peaches, more yoghurt, rhubarb, yogurt, peaches etc etc until you get to the top. finish with yoghurt. Layer it carefully so the layers show through the glass.

That's it! So simple and SOOOOOOOOOO divine!!!!

I could happily eat this for brekky too!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Garden Proud?

Due to some changes in circumstances our family gathering is now being held at OUR place! The deal was "ok we''ll provide the venue, but everyone else has to bring the food!" And do you know - as the idea settled with me I found my first thought not to be 'Oh my gosh, we'll have to make the house look real nice...but Oh my gosh - we have to get the garden looking nice!!!'. Can you be 'gardenproud' instead of houseproud? I think I might be!

So the bed that was only half a bed of natives because nothing will grow in it, partly because it's in some shade and partly because I 've been stingy with the water, has now been planted up with divisions from anything and everything in the garden, and watered and mulched well. The plan is to water everything really well for the next 3 weeks (we can be stingy after to make up for it!) and hopefully have things looking reasonable for christmas day.
The patch we call 'lawn' will be a stretch, but it'll have to do. Must remember to add a pic later to remind me of the difference 3 weeks can - or can't make!

If nothing else I hope none of the divided plants die. Hubby's decided this might be a good excuse to finally paint the hallway too. Aah, motivation comes in weird and wonderful ways! Just need to keep the kids from hurling their Matchbox cars at the walls for a week or two after.

With christmas comes thoughts of new year and new year resolutions. Anyone else starting to think of those?
I have a few - as usual - in the pipeline. This year it was about establishing better routines to get organised, and admittedly it took me about 10 months, but we are finally at a point where we are functioning reasonably well, in between the odd laundry avalanche.

In the past I used to make a resolution (expecting to do it immediately), stick to it for a few weeks, get disheartened about not maintaining it after 3 weeks and let it go. This year was better. I'm learning that habits are hard to break and take time to replace with new ones. I am giving myself a YEAR to learn the new 2009 habits. That's realistic, and motivating because there's always time to hop back on that wagon if you happen to slide off once in a while.

What about you?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Move over Rose Hancock!

WE bathe in Dragon's Blood!


(and you've never seen little munchkins WANT to bathe as much as ours do!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Moon, Venus and Jupiter

Just stepped outside and was mesmerised by the sight in our sky. A beautiful clear night meant we have a perfect view of the very special astronomical event happening at the moment.
here are some pics I just had to share - keep in mind they weren't done with a tripod or anything though so a little fuzzy.

The pictures don't do it any justice at all. It's all much bigger and brighter in real life. So to anyone reading this - if it's evening, GO OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW!!!!

This is really worth a look for yourself. :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

EPBA Gathering

I've looked forward to our gathering all week and today yet again the Evil Plant Buying Alliance met. Spent a lovely morning, part tour of my garden, part Hills Pub Crawl!

There have been many, many satisfying aspects of getting into permaculture and all the related elements of if, but one of the most special has been the feeling of stepping into a vast community of like minded people who are aware, appreciative and supportive in so many ways.
Today was one of those wonderful encounters, and earlier in the week I had another experience which made me feel particularly warm and happy.

My family and I were at a local church op shop - which frequently has excellent goods for sale for next to nothing. I asked the lady if she had any decent sized wicker/cane baskets or wooden boxes large enough to store produce like pumpkins etc. We started chatting while her helper went out back to have a look, and she told me of a South African family she knew who used to live locally, who were entirely self-sufficient. After her helper returned with one basket, and a promise to keep an eye out for more, we thanked her and continued to look around. I was then approached by a customer who said' Excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear that you were interested in gardening and self-sufficiency....we have just set up our very own aquaponics tanks..." and the conversation rolled on from there.

Hubby and I have made small steps towards doing this ourselves so we were very interested, and the lovely lady gave us her number and said to please call anytime to organise a visit as they'd be very happy to have us drop in for a cuppa and a look see.
I grinned all the way back to the car and some. How neighbourly! How very typical of our experiences with people who are interested in this way of life. Always happy to share of their time, experience and even produce.

We have moved into such a rich phase of our life. Countless blessings to enjoy and appreciate.
If happiness has a form it is a sunset colour and sounds like a Celtic Harp.

The Crone will understand this I'm sure.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Big Brag!

Finally the pictures! :D !

Saturday, November 8, 2008

And they pulled and they pulled....

We had a great time today, the Munchkins and me and Nana and Grumps, harvesting the garlic!
The bulbs were big and fat. Some HUGE! We had great fun re-enacting scenes from 'The Enormous Turnip' with all of us lined up pulling on huge garlic bulbs. Younger Munchkin had the biggest grin on his face each time he landed on his bottom with a thump and a handful of garlic.

We also harvested our 2 raspberries (one for each Munchkin) and 2 small but tasty carrots. Can't wait for future seasons when the raspberries take off. Oh and coincidentally there were 2 fat strawberries too - so that was easy to share too!

Molly - the Amaranth is about 4cm high!

Other than that, today was spent weeding - there's a task that never ends around here, and transplanting seedlings that looked crowded. And I planted potatoes in one of the blue tubs we recently inherited. That'll be an experiment, but I'm pretty confident they'll work.

In addition to that - another batch of Loquat Chutney, and 2 jars of Mulberry and Rhubarb Jam. Yes! Today was HIGHLY productive!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

An award! Cool!

The rules of this award are:
* Put the award logo on your blog or post (right click on award, save as)
* Nominate at least 1 blog that you consider to be Uber Amazing!
* Let them know that they have received this Uber Amazing award by commenting on their blog
* Share the love and link to this post and to the person you received your award from.

Thanks Molly! Very sweet!
Ok - I'm nominating 'Herbaholic's Herbarium' because I have used so many of the recipes from this beautiful blog. Molly you really should visit it if you haven't already - you would love it!

Today has been a fruitful day (wait for the pun...) because I made a batch of Loquat Chutney- hee hee...oh gawd, just as well I find myself amusing. Anyway, never done it before and it turned out AMAZING if I do say so myself. I'm planning to make another batch up real quick before the last of the loquats drop or get attacked by the Twenty Eights. Such a small window of opp with these fruit.

Evil Plant buying Alliance - you'll get a jar each for christmas!

Also - heard about Soy melts the other day and found out the are available at our local markets so I'm off for a look this weekend. Does anyone else use them? Have a source? If so can you tell me what scents you've seen about and rough prices?


Friday, October 31, 2008

Beltane Blessings!

We have some new arrivals to mark the height of Spring! 5 little chicks - 4 buttermilk colour and one black. They are absolutely adorable and keep us glued to the chook pen for long spans at a time. Mother Hen (Stormy) is being a wonderful mother looking after them beautifully.

Pics when my camera batteries are charged!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Beltane Bouquet!

I realised today that I have the garden I always wanted. I remember when we first started planting our native garden and other bits and pieces saying to hubby 'I just want a garden where I can go and pick a beautiful bouquet for the house, anytime of the year'. Well we've reached that point! And this weekend being the end of Winter/arrival of glorious SPRING was the perfect time to go out and do some A-Septembering!

The display you see is sitting in our entrance - what a lovely way to start Spring!

Now to go and do some more Spring cleaning and decluttering!

Friday, August 1, 2008

There's treasure in dem der Hills!

Funny how things work out. We went garage sale hunting this morning - making a start on our christmas challenge (re-used, recycled, second-hand or home-made gifts). would you believe it we didn't find a single one.
In particular I've been looking for some of those wrought iron triangle thingies (iron lace?) that you find under the posts of old federation style homes. The plan is to make some bookshelves out of them for the wall in the hallway. Feeling rather disheartened we thought we'd stop in at a friend's place and ask where she found her 'goodies' (she has heaps of lovely recycled ornaments in her garden). As we were driving to her place we passed a lady who was writing a sign up on an easel. We thought, 'must look at that again when we go back' (being curious people!).
Well, we did - and it turns out she was having a garage sale! Hooray!
I asked if she had what we were looking for and she didn't but said she had bits of wrought iron, and kindly showed me through to her shed where we found THESE!
Please click on the image to see them in more detail. They are the sides of 2 seats. In retrospect I can't believe I hesitated all of 30 seconds thinking - gosh I'll have to do them up, worry worry - my woodwork skills are pretty shocking etc.
I didn't really look at them properly until I got home, and the detail on them is gorgeous. Nothing like the cheap nasty stuff you buy at Bunnings but pay a heap for. The lady had bought these back in the 70's. They are heavy and solid and beautiful and.... she sold them to me for $20 (for the 2 sets!). I am so very pleased - what a treasure and what a bargain.
I will have to drop round some tangelo butter or something to her as an extra thank you because I almost felt a little bad to take them for that price.

Hubby LOVED them and is excited about doing them up. We're starting tomorrow morning and using the old floorboards from our old place as the wood. Stay tuned for more pics in a couple of weeks when these hopefully will be transformed into beautiful garden furniture!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Meeting in Midland!

Today I met Lara and Molly and Cat in Midland for a cuppa. What a wonderful way to spend the morning. It is such a different way to make friends this blogging thing - not through work or children but through a genuine common interest and feeling that these people will be like-minded.
I went home feeling inspired and chirpy at having made new friends and feeling that there are many good times ahead to be had with them.

Like Molly I got busy upon my return and Elder Munchkin and I hurriedly picked a large bag of tangelos whilst the parrots squawked obscenities at us. They were made into a tangelo dessert that we (hubby and I) love, and I'll have a go at freezing (if it even tastes half as good down the track that'll be ok) and the rest will go into more tangelo butter tomorrow since our Munchkins have already eaten all of ours.
Cat I know you aren't keen on Lemon butter so I'll leave you out - but Molly and Lara, you'll have a small jar each next time we meet. I'm not saying small to be stingy - it doesn't seem to matter how big a batch I think I'm making it never quite seems to fill 2 jars!

In any case if anyone's interested here's the recipe for the Tangelos (I got it from the Internet but can't remember where - it was a while ago). This makes a divine dessert - strong in flavour, more suited to an adult palate I must say (the munchkins aren't keen on it).

Tangelo Dessert
5 tangelos or oranges
2/3 cup of brown sugar
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (chopped finely)
2 bay leaves (bruised)
2 tablespoons B&B liquor (we use sherry instead)

Zest 1 fruit. Squeese 1/3 cup of juice from the fruit. In saucepan put peel, juice, brown sugar, wine, rosemary and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Simmer 8-10 mins until reduced by 1/3. Stir in liquer.

Meanwhile peel other fruit and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Remove bay leaves from juice. Pour over fruit. Serve or refrigerate for one hour then serve chilled.



Saturday, July 19, 2008

Winds of Change in Albany

I've just come back from a visit to my lovely friend Jen in Albany who is making a start on her own Permaculture/organic gardening journey. In 2 days we did a mini backyard blitz on half her lawn and turned it into the beginning of a lovely food garden. Her hubby is due back home today (I conveniently left before his arrival!) and I'm still waiting to hear if I've been scrubbed off the christmas list since he's seen his new 'lawn'. Gulp!

In any case I got Jen to set up a blogsite so I can see the progress of her new patch and know she would love to hear all of your bits of advice and ponderings too so won't you all please drop in to her site and make her feel welcome?!

Her address is:

Thanks everyone!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Tickly Throat Tea

Younger munchkin has been snuffly and coughing the last few days and it's been keeping him up at night. Last night I made him a tea that worked wonders and gave it to him again before bed tonight. He is sleeping soundly now as we speak.

I'd used honey and thyme before (both have weak antibacterial/antiseptic qualities) but I also read that yarrow was good for colds and sage was good for drying the mucous membranes (but warned to use it sparingly and not prolonged use).

So the tea was simply a teaspoon of honey, heaped teaspoon of thyme, 2 sage leaves, 1 yarrow leaf, and the juice from half a lemon. Steeped with a lid on for 8 minutes and Voila! Younger munchkin said it was delicious and has stopped coughing long enough to fall asleep and stay there. :)

With winter here there are a lot of snuffles going round. Why not try it out if they catch you!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cwm What?!

My sister has been visiting tonight and said she really thinks I should make a mention of what 'Cwm Goch' means. It is Welsh and means 'Red Valley' (Cwm is Valley, Goch is Red).
We named our property Cwm Goch because Hywel's Grandfather was born and raised in Wales on a property of this name. It was named for the red poplars which grew there - Valley of the Red Trees.
Since we live in a Valley with Red Gum (Marri - see recent post) thought it was appropriate and a nice way to keep some family history alive too.
So there you have it. Cwm Goch explained!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Winter Solstice Warmer

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice - shortest day/longest night of the year. We plan on enjoying a little bonfire with the kids to mark the night and it looks to be very cold!
So for those others of you who'll be out tomorrow night - or indeed anyone who likes a hot drink, I thought I'd share with you our very special hot chocolate recipe!

These amounts are for 4 people - the amounts are variable though. Mix and match to your taste preference.

4 cups Milk
About 100g good quality dark chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 heaped tablespoon of sugar (skip this if you like it bitter)
1 cardamom pod
1 tspn cinnamon (or a cinnamon scroll)
1 Vanilla pod (or 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract)
1/2 tspn nutmeg
2 cloves
A pinch of ground chilli (this is important!)

Pour the milk in a saucepan. Grate in the dark chocolate. Add the cocoa and spices and gently simmer (don't boil) until its hot and the flavours have infused a little. I leave mine for about 10 minutes.
Pour into cups. Top with a bit if grated chocolate. YUM!

The flavours are divine and the chilli gives you a warm feeling in the back of your throat as you drink it. Perfect for a cold winter's night!

Hope you like it as much as we do. :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Enjoying the Harvest

My friend from Albany came up today and left armed with seedlings, seeds and inspiration to start a 'serious' vegie garden! And you know what sold the idea? Lunch!
I very quickly threw together a Thai style soup. The only things from the cupboard were the fish, fish sauce and coconut milk. Other ingredients included Bok Choy, Beetroot leaves, silverbeet, spring onion, chives, parsley, chilli, lemon juice, lime juice, kaffir lime leaves, mustard greens, celery, snow peas and nasturtium leaves (basically anything green the kids found and wanted to throw in the basket).
It was actually rather divine - if I do say so myself! And she marvelled at the fact that her two young children happily munched their way through that many vegetables, besides the ones they'd eaten out in the garden. Hence the inspiration!

Here is a picture of the harvest for a salad a couple of weeks ago.

Are we making progress or what!!! Check out that proudly blemished capsicum - no pesticides here! Just need to plant more - lots more, so we can harvest more than once a week/two!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bloodshed at Cwm Goch - isn't it wonderful!

Relax! No human or animal was harmed in the making of this week's post! The 'blood' is from the Marri trees!. For those of you unfamiliar with Australian flora I thought I'd share some knowledge of the plants around Cwm Goch. As you can see from the photos this stuff looks like blood. In fact it's the sap from a tree called Eucalyptus Callophylla. It's also commonly known as Red Gum and Marri. The word Marri means 'blood' in the Nyoongah (Indigenous Australians from this area) language - and you can see why.
The sap has a number of medicinal uses including use as an antiseptic and remedy for stomach upsets. (Personally I think that's because it tastes so bitter that any child offered it quickly says "No thanks, I'm fine now Mum!"). At this time of year you often see the trees 'bleeding'. The Cockatoos come, listen for grubs under the tree bark and tear them out, leaving a 'wound' if you like. See photo.

In any case it's a beautiful tree and the one people know for it's 'Honkey Nuts'. These nuts are an important food source for a variety of our native birds, who eat the seeds found inside. If you look at the photo of the nuts you can see evidence of two sorts of birds. The nut which is damaged with a large chunk out of it has probably been fed on by a Port lincoln Ringneck Parrot (also known as a 'Twenty Eight'). White Tailed Black Cockatoos also eat them. If you look really closely at the other one, on the right, you can see tiny little 'C' shaped markings on it. This nut's seeds were taken by a Red-capped parrot. These beautiful birds have evolved with a longer top beak. They hold the nut with one foot, insert the lower part of their beak into the nut (that makes the mark) and use the top part as a lever to prise/slide the seeds out without damaging the nut.
You can tell a lot about what lives in an area from looking at the food sources. Sadly a lot of people in the Hills take down these trees because the Honkey nuts are annoying (might drop on your car, or make a mess in the driveway). We need to share with people the importance of these trees as a food source for our declining bird populations and hopefully inspire more people to keep them and plant more. Perhaps if this post was new info to you, you'll do just that.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wonderful Webs

These beautiful webs glistening with dew were everywhere this morning. A gentle reminder that while we sleep the night creatures are awake and busy doing their thing.
I could have filled this page with pictures - but here are 2 that I'll share. It's funny though, a camera can never seem to capture the beauty as it is right before you in things like spider webs.

There was also a wonderful mist through our little bit of forest (which doesn't look so heavy in the photo). I love winter mornings when this happens. Our forest feels truly magical.

What a lovely way to start the day!

Later the weather got really warm. Elder Munchkin and I walked to the bottom paddock to collect some tagasaste for our planned compost and by the time we got back the sun was beaming. That's when we noticed someone else had decided to enjoy the nice weather. And here he is.....
He is one of the longest Bobtails we've seen so we called him 'Delonghi' (yes very droll!). No doubt the next one we see will be called 'Deshorthi' by simple comparison. He wasn't worried about us at all, even when Elder Munchkin nearly leaned on him trying to see a skink who was watching us from the same brick, so we got a good long watch. Elder Munchkin disappeared for a bit and I figured he'd got bored, until he returned a few moments later with an egg for his 'pet'. They sure love egg. We didn't wait to take photos of him eating it though - he was quite content lying in the sun just dozing.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Weeds are our Friends! (Thanks Bernie!)

Our Permaculture consultant Bernie came again today for a thorough look at our property and help us with our Permaculture design ideas. For anyone out there who has been considering having an expert in we say 'STOP considering it and DO IT!'. Bernie (besides being a lovely bloke) was absolutely brilliant and gave us heaps and heaps of ideas. He is obviously incredible knowledgeable but made us feel that even amateurs like us can feasibly do this easily- and that we're on the right track. His visit was inspiring and incredibly motivating because we can now clearly see tasks that can be started NOW. We don't feel so overwhelmed.

Best of all I think he changed how we feel and look at the property. I always felt people coming to visit must think it's a bit of a mess (it's a growing place - small sections starting to come together, weeds quite rampant, part paddock, part everything else) but he really loved it - and his excitement over the beauty of the little things (like an arbour I'd built out of wire and dead branches - because I don't have welding skills and it only needed to hold up a couple of sweet peas anyway) made me feel our garden was a lovely place. He could certainly see it! It's always nice to take someone through who appreciates the beauty in what you've tried to do. Oh and we learnt a very important thing. 'Weeds are our Friends!"

For anyone living in Perth who's thinking of getting some expert advice, we'd heartily recommend Bernie. You can contact him via this website.

And remember to tell him your blogger friend Nathalie told you 'Weeds are our Friends'! :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tagged by Molly!

Ok I've been tagged, have picked up the book I'm reading, flicked to the appropriate pages/lines and cringed because the book isn't a non-fiction 'safe' book to share - the particular page, whilst interesting to me, might be seen as controversial to some readers. So I am hereby giving a warning to anyone reading this, the book may not be your cup of tea.

It's called 'The Inquisition'By Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh and deals with not only the Spanish Inquisition but the Roman Inquisition, their dealing with heretics, Protestants and witches and all that lot of history which doesn't need to be explained in detail here - except that I will say that the torture methods described demonstrate the unique ability of man to be ever so 'creative' and 'imaginative'. What a pity we couldn't find better use for those talents. I'm sure those of you interested will read or have read, similar so let's leave it at that.

here we go: Page 123, Line 5 - the next 3 lines read as follows.
"This is not to say that persecution of the irrational demonic ceased. The ferreting out of witches, warlocks and other adherents of the old pagan religion continued, even gained momentum; and the newly established Protestant churches were as zealous in harrying them as Rome"

"Luther himself inveighed against the devil and against witchcraft, and Protestant religious leaders of all denominations quickly followed suit."

"Protestantism could be as intolerant, as narrow-minded, as bigoted, ignorant and brutal as the Inquisition itself"

Ok - there goes a good percentage of my blog audience! Apologies to those offended - this is history, not my personal opinion.

And since I'm really new to this and don't know many other bloogers yet - I'll send this to just one (since Molly tagged me) and that is Kate at Hills Seed Savers.

Thanks Molly!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Honk if you're happy!

Bernie the Permaculture Sage came and looked at the properties today (ours and next door). We're bringing him back in next week for a longer consult, but got some good ideas already. The best one it seems is to forget our plan to get Dorpas (a breed of sheep) to manage the fire hazard of grass in the bottom paddock and instead use geese! I didn't know they were such effective grazers but Bernie reckons a dozen or so would easily maintain that area. Worth a try - despite the advantages of Dorpas over other sheep (no shearing, muelsing etc) they do require pretty rigid fences and ours aren't the best on one side. Apparently you can train them to follow you too, so bringing them from the bottom paddock up to the orchard is feasible and it sounds like geese are lower maintenance than chooks - which we can handle.

This permaculture thing is really starting to move along. I walk around our property now and can really see some progress. Tonight we ate Tuna fishcakes (with heaps of herbs) and a side of freshly picked Bok Choy (which is growing madly). Hywel as we picked them said he actually wasn't a fan of Bok Choy - and changed his mind completely after we'd eaten it. Fresh tastes so much nicer than anything. The only thing in dinner that didn't come from our place was the tuna and potatoes. Next year it'll only be the tuna. How good does this feel!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Berry berry happy!

We have found a berry supplier! After getting a little disheartened by stories of quarantine laws changing and Eastern states suppliers no longer sending stuff over to WA, I saw sign out the front of a local nursery saying 'Blueberries'. Bought 2 and have ordered a blackberry, gooseberry, red currant and black currant. The kids LOVE berries so hopefully these will grow and do well.
Ideally I'd love to plant them as a mid-storey plant (Robert Hart style) but I'm waiting to hear from some local experts, who apparently were growers years back, for some tips. Any readers with tips for growing these in a temperate climate PLEASE speak up!

It's funny, I planted the kiwi vine under the apricot tree - and now faced with the prospect of planting all these berries I'm feeling....nervous/uncomfortable about it. Will we trample them all when we pick other fruit. How will we prune? And at the same time I'm hearing myself and realising how very conditioned I am to the idea of an orchard being 'neat, tidy' and clear on the ground. I really need to get over this. Logically I know that the 'forest garden' method makes sense. Especially water wise - why water 3 acres when you could water 0.5 of one. Maybe it's just the fact that I've never seen one in real life before.
Has anyone else out there tried the Hart method? I know Crone at wits end is planning to - but is anyone else actually harvesting from a multi-layered garden? Please let me know!

Off to bed now. Permaculture expert/consultant comes tomorrow morning to give us some tips on how to best use our land. More on this after his visit.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bloody Chooks!!!!!

All our hard work!!!! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Long story in short......boy rugby tackled scarecrow, Dad propped scarecrow up against temporary (wobbly) fence, rained, Scarecrow got soggy and heavy, fence bowed under weight, chooks got in vegie patch..Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! They have decimated the patch - the damage is awful.
We've bought new seedlings and more seeds - this patch is NOT saving us money!!! I'm in two minds about whether we uproot the broccoli which was knee height and is now just a few thick stems and start again, or wait and see if it recovers and produces anything. @#!*^! chooks! We'd better get some decent eggs out of this!

At least the lacewings arrived today. Highly recommend 'Bug Central' to anyone in Australia. They were prompt and reliable. Had a bit of a giggle reading the official note on the postage sticker which talked about the contents being part of 'an Integrated Pest Management System'. Sounds very flash - but translates as sprinkling cups of extra bugs around the vegie patch.

More photos when the patch doesn't look like such a disaster area.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Growing Challenge - TheCarrots are in!

Finally - we have planted the carrots. The ground here is gravel/sand so heaps of little rocks and no good for lovely long straight carrots. This is why we haven't had success in the past. This year we're trying a trench method I read on the net. The bloke said to dig a trench and simply fill that in with soft sandy organic matter, rather than have to cultivate (or sieve in our case!) a large area.
So we've done it. Trench dug, filled with lovely worm castings - generously donated by Grumps, thanks! and carrot seeds sprinkled on top.

We'll see how they go!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

War is declared!

They have arrived. Clad in an armour of black with red stockinged legs, they appeared silently, stealthily under the cover of darkness. This morning I stood in the vegie patch, surrounded by the carnage and very nearly wept at the futility of it all. The enemy - Red Legged Earth Mites. The victims - all our beautiful new seedlings. But it isn't over. They may have won a battle, but not the war. Tonight Hubby and I put our heads together and devised our plans for the counterattack. Lacewings! A whole box of them! Hahhhaaaaaa! We have ordered a box of them - didn't know you could order insects until tonight - but you can, and we have and so we wait and in a few days, when the enemy has been lulled into a false sense of security...we will pounce - or at least the Green Lacewings will and smite the mite from the face of this vegie patch. Victory shall be ours!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Babies in the garden

And here we have it - some up to date photos taken a mere 8 minutes ago. The vegies have definitely grown since that old pic was taken.

A particular success story this year - so far - has been the garlic. I found a website earlier in the year written by a group of people who were really serious about their garlic (talked to the cloves almost). They suggested soaking the individual cloves in Seasol and Bicarb overnight, and peeling the softened skins the next morning before planting. I have to say we've never had garlic sprout so fast or look so healthy. These were planted just before the Autumn equinox so 5-6weeks ago. See pics.

Here as well we have the baby kiwi vines as mentioned: Only just visible to the left and right of the tree.

And a few other personalities that roam Cwm Goch, Zac our beautiful Border Collie, and one of those much-put-out biddies!

Today's afternoon project is to plant the Broad Beans - we hate them but Nana and Grumps love them so the beans will be for them. And hopefully, we'll actually get some carrots in too....kind of got waylaid from our 'Challenge entry', but at least there's lots of other stuff going in.


Henry Reigns!

Finally sorted out my log in problems and hurray - we're here again.
Well it's starting to get under way. I've got Hywel (hubby) on board and he has built fences - permanent and temporary (wobbly!) through the orchard. We visited our friends' farm in York to get some hay and sheep manure - you never saw people so excited about sheep shit as us that day!

We also got a new rooster - he's a Plymouth something (rock?) and absolutely delightful! He's only young, and came with 2 females (we think). Of course there has been friction in the henhouse the last few weeks as they settle in, but it's getting better. Those nasty old biddies better watch out - 'Henry' is destined to grow a lot bigger than them!

Anyhow here's a picture of Henry (named after the king who also had a number of wives!) he is soooooo friendly and comes when he's called. My favourite rooster ever. Just hope he keeps his nice temperament when his spurs come in.

We also got a stack of seedlings and put them in. Yes we plan to grow from seed but wanted to get a head start. So, bought seedlings are in, seeds are currently being propagated - and hopefully will go in as a successive planting in a month or so.

Here's the plot! OMG! I did a double take as I accessed this photo just now. It was taken a few weeks ago - and already looks quite different. I will definitely get out there tomorrow and take some new photos.

Since this one we've put in a crop of potatoes a la Peter Cundall - which means just plopped them on the ground with a few sheets of newspaper under them, then layered them over and over with sheep poo and straw. It looks a burial mound but hopefully will give us heaps of potatoes. The kids just loved looking for the treasure (aka spuds) last year.

Today's highlight was buying a male and a female kiwi fruit vine. I think they're called Chinese gooseberries overseas. I was inspired by a You tube video I saw last night about a man who designed Forest gardens Robert Hart? - may need to edit that name, can't quite remember. In any case we've planted them against an old apricot tree that isn't producing and has several large old dead branches. Hywel was going to rip it out but I convinced him not to. It's still providing a frame/canopy and therefore might be useful in some way. Anyway - the vines might be a flop there - but you can only try and see. I think it should be ok - some protection from winds, but not enough foliage - due to the dead branches - to block out the sun the plant needs. Time will tell. Photos tomorrow!

While mentioning You Tube - I found a heap of Bill Mollison documentary segments there, and some inspiring clips from the Dervaes Family. Well worth a look. The stuff these people are achieving is amazing.

Anyway, thanks to those people who commented so far - I learn HEAPS from other people's info on the web - I hope some of what I learn is useful to you. :)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

From small things great things grow!

Well this is it! Welcome to my/our very first blog. Until a week ago I wouldn't have known the first thing about doing my own blog. Until I volunteered at work to set one up for my students and had to learn super fast!

Then - as I was reading other people gardening blogs I saw a great idea - a gardening challenge! And the author asked for the participants to send their blogs. So here you have it.... I have just joined the 'Blogging world' thanks to you!!!

Now being a complete beginner my site will look a bit bare until I get the hang of things, but I will tell you that my challenge entry is a pretty big one - it's to get some success out of permaculture. We have a little vegie patch before - pretty hit and miss, but THIS year....we are getting serious!

Our ultimate goal is to get self-sufficient in vegies at least.

Ok so specifically though - CARROTS! We haven't had any real success with them in the past - just a handful out of the ground.So this year we'll try carrots - for a reasonable harvest of a few different types.

There you have it!

thanks for getting us started!

Nathalie :)