Friday, 31 January 2014

Cropped crop!

Vaughan called out to me this evening.  He excitedly reported that two of our tomatoes were red.  A short while afterward he called again to correct himself - as they were orange! 

We've left them there for now.  Hopefully they will be safe from the Houdini/horrible heifer, who is proving to be quite a garden fiend.  She's munched down some of our corn, so the remaining plants are well guarded.  That is, I keep a watchful eye upon them and launch myself out of the house at a great rate of knots if I see/hear her anywhere near the area.  I scared shit out of her the other day.  Literally. 

Those agapanthus I planted back in August had buds and I was looking forward to seeing the flowers.  Nope.  Tea taste-tested them and munched the plants down to about a third of their size.  Between her and the chookies, a lot of my good work was undone.  

What's that saying?  If at first you don't succeed ...  Our cow is very trying, that's for sure! 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tonne of fun?!

At the beginning of September, one of our landlady's bulls came to stay in our larger paddock. 

The grass was definitely greener then and it was hard for Tea (and Nick with his mower) to keep it in check, so the bull did his bit to munch down the excesses.

For a while we had a second bull visiting also.  They provided a lot of amusement and we did enjoy seeing them at close quarters.  Well, we liked seeing them at close quarters with the double, electrified fence between them and us.  There was some excitement this week.  Often the bull sounds very close when he bellows.  On Monday afternoon he was very close - right beside our house!

He'd gotten out a couple of times previously but hadn't wandered far, so it was easy for Nick to escort him back to quarters.  We weren't so sure how he would behave over a greater distance, so called our landlady expecting she would herd him back with the quad-bike.  She arrived ten minutes later but just walked behind and shoo-ed him along in front of her.   We did the same yesterday morning.  Erin woke up thinking Tea was rubbing on her caravan - but when she looked out it was the one-tonne bull and not the 300kg "horrible heifer"!   

Once again Mr Muscle was restored to his rightful place but has since been moved to other accommodation, further away from us.  Nick walked the fence-line of the large paddock yesterday afternoon.  Our landlady had said electric fences are less effective in dryer weather.  That makes sense however upon inspection the electric fence had other issues, so Nick will fix those and then install Tea in that, hopefully escape-proof, area.

It was quite late on Monday night when a car drove up our driveway.  From the darkness a lady enquired whether a black heifer lived here.  She had found Tea on the road and very kindly returned her to the main paddock.  Seemingly the lady and her daughter had spotted our "horrible heifer" along the road the previous night also.  (On Monday morning Tea was inside her paddock, dozing beside her water barrel so we assumed she had been a good cow overnight)! 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Hosing the hens!

While Nick was fixing the fence, Erin and Vaughan were chilling the chooks!

They adopted a new method this time, using the hose to thoroughly spray the girls (and themselves).

I'm not sure Judge Judy and Jo were all that impressed with the wetting - but they were definitely cooler afterward (as were Erin and Vaughan)!

Great Gate!

It was a stinking hot day but Nick was on a mission - to fix the stupid gate I showed you last year!

He used Elmer's winch to pull each of the supporting posts into a more vertical position, and chocked them into place using spare pieces of wood. 

One the main post was upright, the gate regained it's far more useful horizontal position! Of course, it then became more obvious that the chain (like those is on many other gates here) isn't long enough.  It had  been extended with some wire "macramé" - an interesting modification but not particularly effective.  (The same extension method has been used on the property's main front gate and Nick watched it unlatch in the wind, causing the gate to open within moments of him closing it)!

Rather than rely on the chain/wire latch, Nick has rigged a rather nifty rope alternative.  He was well-chuffed with his day's work.  It's a fantastic improvement upon the hay-rope and wishful thinking that was being used previously!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

More pilfered plums!

We were out and about today.  On the way home I asked Nick to stop so we could pilfer more plums.  He found another tree, laden with yellow fruit.

Once home I weighed our haul and we had just over a kilo - mainly of yellow plums but with some red. I looked online for a recipe which more or less matched pantry ingredients and settled upon "Richly Spiced Plum Chutney".

Although I read through the recipe (and tweaked some of the ingredients), I didn't look at the comments.  Had I done that, I would have reduced the amount of vinegar substantially.  As a result the chutney required a far longer simmering time to reduce sufficiently before bottling.  Oh, well! 

The yield was two large 500ml jars and one smaller 250ml jar.  The lids are popping as I write - I do love that sound! I sampled a tiny leftover after bottling and think I've done good work. I guess now we wait two weeks (as per the recipe) for a proper taste-test!

Pilfered Plum Pie!

Pilfered is a strong term but it is good for alliteration! 

There are several fruit trees along the "rambling road" we often use. It seemed some of the fruit had ripened, so we stopped to investigate on Thursday. Small ripe plums fell off into our hands! I sent Vaughan back to the car for a container of some sort and he returned with a plastic bag, albeit a holey one!

We collected quite a few plums (praps a kilo) and brought them home - very chuffed with our efforts!  A few were sampled but although ripe, seemed a little tart. I decided to use them in a simple pie last night. (The recipe is over at lovely Annabel's The Bluebirds are Nesting blog). 

I did try halving the fruit to remove the seeds but ended up with a mangled mess as my plums were quite small!  Instead I cut the fruit from the seeds, which worked well.  I found some home-made vanilla sugar lurking in the pantry, so sprinkled the fruit with that before adding the batter.  It could have used a heavier sprinkling as the end result was similar to rhubarb in tanginess but not at all unpleasant, especially served with custard!  A fantastic freebie!

Peachy PYOing (in our backyard)!

We had a quiet day at home today, slowly unpacking and recovering from yesterday's traveling.

I checked on our fruit trees after hanging a load of washing and discovered some were ready. 

(Nick had spotted a fox climb the same tree very recently, so I've had my eye on it since - keen to enjoy some before the animals ate them all)! 

My young assistants were happy to help harvest some home-grown peaches.

Once collected, every one guessed the weight before our haul was weighed.  2.6kg!  There are more on the tree, so it'll be interesting to see how many we get in total.

I made some into a simple peach dessert, baked on the Cobb Cooker. 

While we were camping, Tea had a holiday with our landlady's cows.

Nick brought her home, before our peach-picking began.  She was sitting down when Erin and Vaughan offered some of the second-grade fruit.

What a sight! She chewed each one thoroughly with obvious enjoyment before very delicately spitting the seed!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Movie Premiere!

You might remember we bought a movie projector in September, soon after buying two rows of outdoor chairs?

The projector has been used a number of times since but only inside, in our small back room.  It works well but the seating is quite cosy!

Tonight was our first-ever screening under the stars (though we had to wait till after 9:00pm for sufficient darkness).    Nick rigged one of our camping gazebo walls along the side of our storage container.  It made an effective screen, though rippled in the strong breeze. 

Nick had parked both cars and our trailer to serve as a windbreak but even so we were rugged up in dressing gowns, slippers and tucked under our blankets - all necessary insulation given the 13 degree temperature!

As first nights go, we were quite pleased with ours.  Nick did great work as our projectionist.  The movie seats were comfy and we were a good distance from the screen.  The sound worked well and praps on a still night, the gazebo wall will be ripple-free!  More trials to come!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Nattering about the 'net ...

Hamby Home(in)stead is 9km from the nearest telephone exchange, so unfortunately we are not able to access broadband internet.  Our best option is a Telstra wifi gadget. Our monthly internet bills are nearly three times as much as what we paid before relocating but we now only get 15meg of data, rather than virtually unlimited access.

Once we reach the limit, our service is slowed to 64kps - yes, it's super-sloooooow and very frustrating.  Generally our service is slowed during the third week or so of the month, though in the lead-up to Christmas we had maxed-out much earlier.  Telstra keep inviting us to upgrade but I reckon $110/month is as much as they will get!

Friday, 10 January 2014


Just indulge me a little.  Yes, it's mint and I know it has a reputation for being easy to grow but I haven't grown it before, so I'm quite chuffed with my small pot of success! 

We visited our niece and family on Christmas eve.  She gave me some herbs from her garden so I could make them into tea.  I used most and put a sprig of mint aside for later. 

It was sitting in a small glass of water and when I checked it a few days later, it had sprouted!  I gave it a few more days in the water glass, then transferred it to a pot of very soggy potting mix and it seems to be enjoying the new surroundings. 

Can you tell I'm  rather proud of my achieve-mint?! 

It's CORN, Vaughan!

It's been a while since I updated our gardening progress.  Although I've picked quite a few bunches of silverbeet and about a handful of beans, I haven't been monitoring all that closely.

Most of the carrots are gone. That's OK. Vaughan's been pulling small, oddly shaped examples to eat raw! He's usually quite vegie-phobic, so I'm pleased he's snacking on them.

I did notice earlier this week that there is one cucumber growing. It looks rather like a deformed sea-slug!  I'm not sure how it will taste but I do smirk when I see it!

Vaughan and I carted a couple of loads of water out to Tea this afternoon.  The task was a bit easier because we now have a hose that can be attached to the laundry sink. Nick later reminded me that I can use it on the garden.  Der!

I called Vaughan out while I was watering - cos there are corn cobs swelling on the stalks! How neat is that?!!  A-maz-ing! I thought the tomatoes had little babies but when I was staking some (with broken arrows!), I found some larger fruit as well.  I'm very happy with that - tis far more successful than any previous vegie gardening endeavour!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Mulling over ...

Nick and I are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary today.  Well, we've been admiring our younger selves and musing over our adventures so far! 

We've come a long way, in all senses of the expression - though in strictly geographical terms we've had six different addresses, including our interstate relocation to Hamby Home(in)stead.

It's good weather for reminiscing.  Outside is grey, cold and windy - in sharp contrast to the 30-plus-degree heat we experienced on the day of our lakeside ceremony.  Back then I work a sleeveless silk pant-suit.  Today I'm wearing jeans, jumper, scarf, woollen socks and boots. 

Yes, it's summer.  Allegedly!

Nick and I have both been married before but this anniversary is special because our marriage is now the longest for each of us.  We're pretty impressed to have reached that milestone.  It was definitely worth celebrating with a breakfast of Hamby Home(in)stead mulberry/white chocolate muffins!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Get off the grass!

The grass isn't actually greener on the other side of Tea's fence - but she prefers it anyway!  For nearly three weeks in the lead-up to Christmas, she stayed put in her paddock and it was lovely.  It seems though that her good behaviour was just to trick Santa and avoid an electric fence gift. 

These days she is more often out of her paddock than in.  Vaughan has been sharing in the work of leading her back to where she should be, at least several times a day.  It was funny yesterday when he caught her for the second time - and she sat down in the driveway, refusing to budge!  He had squatted down to talk to her, thinking she may be hurt or sick - so was quite surprised when she stood up without issue as soon as I walked behind her! 

Nick fixed one escape point yesterday (after his elaborate re-tensioning efforts late last year).

We all watched her soon afterward, stepping through another low point quite easily.  She's used the same spot a couple of times today, so that area is next on the list to be fixed. 

An electric fence is also on the agenda.  That'll shock her, for sure!