Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bonfire and Brew

Our cousins from the UK arrived this week - along with their gorgeous twins. Tonight the Clan gathered to welcome them properly with a bonfire. I think bonfires are one of my favourite winter things.
The way was lit with bottled candles and flares, down to the tangled mass of sticks, branches and roots that rose from the ground like an out of place beaver lodge. F-I-L had been busy the last few months, with a plan in mind.
It was a slow start, leaves lighting up brightly, then dying. But there was no end of encouragement from the crowd and after a quick scavenge for twigs we soon had a bright orb, and then a fire!
The young lads fueled it enthusiastically until the circle that had gathered widened considerably, to cope with heat, and better appreciate the view. There's something so connecting about a fire. One beautiful cousin had brought a friend with her and was introducing her to the Clan. In the explanations that followed about who was who, I mentioned 'Everyone here is connected somehow' (we are an extended group). And as I said it, I realised how we are so broad (cousins and second cousins and cousins once removed and in-laws, and siblings and friends that are family by choice) but there is a definite clanness to us.
I married into this clan, and feel it strongly as this is so unlike the family experiences from my background. But this is a family where the matriarch only ever treated me like a daughter, not a daughter-in-law, and I have a sister, (not a sister in law) and the cousins call me their cousin (not their cousin's wife). Here is a space and place for everyone - even my side of the family who are clan now too, not 'in-laws'.
With hot soup, roast meat, bread by the basketful, spicy mulled wine and wonderful company I just sat and bathed in the glorious feeling that I would not want to be anywhere else in the world but here. This is home and these are my people. And I am just the luckiest person alive.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The quiet time

Things are very slow at the moment. It's too cold to sow much into the ground (though I have been moving cabbage and spinach seedlings out into the orchard).
I thought I'd planted way too much broccolini this year (about 20 plants) but no, it's still not too much. We've been harvesting from the first succession every week or so (small amounts) and now that the others have caught up I managed to get a substantial double handful for tonight's chicken pie, but there still isn't enough to have this much every day or two, nor give bushels away to family/friends.
I wonder how much it takes? Every year we plant more, but still nowhere near enough. I'm at the point where I've decided to make every seed I can, count... and fill every space I can find with a vegie plant. I know some won't get the water they need, but those that tough it out will have their seed collected and perhaps I'll develop more drought tolerant varieties.

The good thing about winter is the time it leaves to plan and organise. I've been scouring Diggers' catalogues and placing orders. Boy will I be busy in spring!
In particular I've set myself a tomato goal for this summer. I'm waiting on an order of Amish Paste tomatoes, Jaune Flamme and some others of mixed varieties. The first two are for the sole intention of preserving.
The tomatoes were a flop last year. Soil was moist but leaves got burnt to a crisp in the 40plus crop!
This year I'm planting the tomatoes under trees in the orchard and in other spots where they'll be partly shaded. I was reminded by my father in law this week that they only needed heat not sun, which I knew..why didn't I do this last year?
In any case, we've never had a big enough crop of tomatoes that there's been heaps of surplus. This year I want SURPLUS PLUS! I dream of jars of homemade pasta sauce and dried tomatoes, neatly lined up in our store cupboard, ready for the winter months when we love to have pasta and pizza. This is the year!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Fire Pit

The light's not great because it's late afternoon but Ramsey reminded me I'd promised photos of the fire pit. This is it!

Red bird of Happiness

You know those times when things really start to get on top of you? Final straw broke the camels back for me last night after we had some friends over and I was mortified by the way our kids behaved. They so know how to use manners and how to what the hell happens when they come in contact with people?

Its been a hard month or two where I'm feeling utterly incompetent in all my roles as mother, wife and professional. I am swamped, tired and angry that despite my best efforts nothing is seeming to run smoothly, or show the outcomes of the effort put in. The house is a constant battle to keep in any semblance of order, the kids are constantly at each others throats, not using their manners and being disrespectful and I am exhausted dealing with it all.

I go back to work in 2 days after the break, and I don't feel ready or enthused....not a good thing.

After a good cry last night I've sat down today to make 'tactical response plans' (which is how I usually deal with this kind of thing once I've fallen in a heap. Time to get up..."now what am I going to do about it" type thing.

I'm keeping up the high expectations of the kids and yes we've have a few 'Stand and think' sessions for both of them today. I've revamped our routines and looked at the tough spots. And realised why I get so stressed when I do - hubby's not usually home at the busy times of the day when I really need an extra set of hands. Like someone to run bathtime/clean the aftermath while the other tidies up the dinner dishes etc. Shift work is a killer for both the person doing it and for their partner.

In any case Hubby has come to the party agreeing to do some set chores 'sometime' during his week between shift hours. Those are things I can rely on being done and forget about them.

Anyway - boring post for anyone reading this. Personal rant and recovery really. Sometimes you just need to vent.

Despite feeling blergh today - I had to stop smile and quickly grab my camera for a moment of bliss when I saw this little guy on our railing outside the window. Isn't he beautiful? We are getting more and more small variety birds - and the Robin is one of my favourites.

Just as good as a bluebird of happiness.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A new look and some photos

Since this is a new start to the year of blog for me I thought a new look was in order. And here are the photos as promised.

The first is of the 'Potager' or herb circle. You can see the tiles I used. It has grown HEAPS since this photo was taken, but I still have to fill in some soil at the back - ran out of steam on this project...but will get there.

The next photo is of the front view (the lavender in the bottom left of the top photo is the lavender hedge you can see middle left in the 2nd shot). You can jus see my little blue shed in the background. This view is the view from our dining room.

And below, my cold frame. Mini - but is sufficient for now.

It's all looking so 'full' and green - the sort of garden I've always wanted. Have to admit I'm feeling very pleased that all that hard work is starting to pay off. If you click on the photos you'll get a better look.

And we have big plans for the place. And this time when I say 'we' I actually mean it! Hubby has agreed to get on board with the big projects namely to enclose our north side verandah (our house is solar passive so this will mean trapped heat from the bricks and no wind which will reduce the cold air on those windows) with bistro blinds so that we can roll them up in summer when we don't want the glass house effect.

In addition we are planning to build a shadehouse across the front of the house (south side) as this is the side that gets terribly hot in the afternoon in summer when the west setting sun hits the walls and windows. The shade house will be covered in a deciduos vine (grape or kiwi I'm thinking) so it will still let light in during the cooler months but provide cool breezes through the house in summer.

I think the plan will be to start on the shadehouse in Spring so we get the benefits of it this summer.

Things are in swing!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


It has been soooooooo long since I last posted. Life got very busy - as it does between caring for a young family, work and play (namely work... on our land).

The results will be posted up over the next few weeks.

So garden wise what have I been up to? Well research in a big way. I've been reading anything and everything I can on permaculture and finding ways to make it work here.

Here's a list of the changes since last post (over a year ago!)
  1. Built a keyhole shaped 'potager' - mainly filled with herbs. It's made out of the recycled roof tiles from our old house and is thriving! What a change from the dry patch it used to be. Plan to cover it with shade cloth for summer and put up a grape on trellis at the back shield carport.
  2. Put up a small shed - second hand passed on from a neighbour. It's blue and I love it! It got deemed 'mine' and has all my gardening stuff in it, plus a bench for workspace. I think I finally get the whole attraction men have about sheds.
  3. Built a swale....well sort of. I dug ditches in the orchard to catch the rain that runs downhill so fast. Not sure that they're exactly on contour as my method of planning them wasn't very scientific. I got the hose, watched where the water ran, and heaped dirt in front of it to stop it going down and redirect it sideways. Soon had a horizontal line across the orchard which I dug and heaped the dirt on the low side. In any case it works! I've also redirected the water from the driveway. The orchard is always so very dry in summer. Hopefully this year will be different - in any case it's never had this much water in it before.
  4. Built 2 ponds. Below our decking was a dry spot where nothing grew (water resistant soil due to the effects of leaves from the eucalypts above it). Since putting the 2 ponds in the decking area is noticeably cooler in summer and the wildlife has thrived. Insects abound and the quenda diggings have increased in that area 20 fold.
  5. Planted more fuit trees.
  6. Rezoned the main vegie patch. The orginal spot we tried years ago was too dry at the time. Since then the lavender hedge and lime tree surrounding it have grown and offer enough protection for it to be sheltered and ideal as a vegie patch. Again- recycled tiles form the raised bed.
  7. Build a rough compost bin area from old corrugated iron and some star pickets. It's not fancy but I have compost for the first time ever!
  8. Changing the face of the orchard - sowed a pasture of green manure (hoed and sowed by hand I might add!) and am trying to establish a food forest there instead of the typical orchard in rows. It will be some years before it looks as it should but this is a start.
  9. Saved some old grapevines that were lying on the ground in the paddock and have raised them on a wire/star picket fence.
  10. Built a fire pit/drumming circle area. We have to remove some pines due to the risk of borers. The segments have been arranged in a circle with brazier in the centre. I'm in the process of planting up the outside with natives to eventually create a 'cave' or secluded area. The kids already love it and we've had a few marshmallow toasting sessions to try it out.
  11. Have started making our own yoghurt. It's so easy - why haven't I been doing this for years?
  12. Installed a wood fire - this one we bought new for two reasons. Firstly we looked for months and couldn't find any decent ones secondhard. Those that were available aren't legal anymore due their emissions levels. Secondly Hubby insisted we get a 'pretty' one. We ended up getting a 'Jotul' which is supposed to be incredibly efficient (one of the best brands in the world in this regard apparently). The brand is Norwegian but I understand the parts were made here. There was much debate about getting a wood fire but the research showed they actually are greener than gas and electricity. With the cost of electricity going up too we thought it was silly to not make use of our land and be self sufficient in this regard. So I'm madly planting firewood for the years to come.
See - no time to blog when this is all happening. Photos to follow once I steal the batteries for my camera back from the kids!