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. :)