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Monday, September 30, 2013

Work?

I'm in a very fortunate position and not for a minute do I want to take it for granted. The few jobs I have had have all been ones that I love so it has always felt like I didn't work at all. I know many people just tolerate their jobs as a means to an end or worse still loathe their workplaces. I feel sorry for them especially when they don't have any way to make a move to something that would more pleasant or fulfilling. It does make up a big part of our lives after all.
 
My 'job' here at home doesn't pay much in dollars and cents but it is rewarding nonetheless. I'm my own boss, I'm home for school holidays, the hours are flexible as long as the jobs get done (chooks and moreover ducks do insist on their breakfast by a certain hour) and although there is a seasonal flow to the tasks that need to be done, it isn't boring.
 

 This was my commute today. I have to walk along the road from the house yard to the paddock where the sheep are. Today was drenching day and we also started shearing. It's hot work and physically tiring too. And there is more to do tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it because it is really hands-on work and I like that lanolin smell of sheep and the chance to pet them a bit.

 My little highland calf, Teddy, wasn't taking any chances though. Just in case we decided to shear him. No worries there.


And no one is the worse for wear after being in the yards except maybe the humans who I must say are feeling a bit weary this afternoon.

And if anyone is interested, my other jobs have been working  as a scientist in clinical microbiology and as a school administration officer for a short time.

Do you like your job? I hope so.
Tracy

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Taking it easy


High Tea for Habitat yesterday was fun. Only a small guest list but that's ok. I didn't hear any complaints and I enjoyed myself in the kitchen before everyone arrived and at the table chatting when the guests arrived. On Friday I was a bit disappointed that a lot of people couldn't come but now I'm keen to do it all again next September. And I must make mention that the worst part of the event would have been the washing up but with payment of a few party leftovers, Tim took care most of it when he got home from work. Thanks Tim, I know you don't like washing china tea cups and saucers.



And today has been an easy day. Up with the birds to climb trees. Actually I didn't get any higher than this which was one step of the ground and already too scary for me. Hope and my niece Charlotte were already two branches up in the walnut tree without an ounce of fear.

 
Home to potter in the garden and my corn seeds are up and teasing with the promise of fresh corn in the summer. Corn is one of my least reliable growers and when it does do well there always seems to be some mishap. Rams and corn don't make for a happy vegetable gardener that's all I will say.
 

I also did a little bit of rescuing. When I see those poor looking plants on the death row table at the shops I want to bring them all home. I did see some going into the bin and I really think a little water and TLC and they would have been good. I saved these ones and at 50cents for 8 tomato plants, it's the least I could do. They are Burnley Bounty which is apparently an heirloom Australian variety which I haven't grown before and I'm always happy to try new varieties.


I'm taking it easy in the kitchen tonight too. We have dispensed with soup night on Sundays for now (it's not really soup kind of weather). I was toying with having quiches on Sunday just for something to do and we have heaps of eggs- chicken, duck and turkey but I let the garden inspire me today and we are having a risotto. Asparagus and pea risotto actually. The mention of which was enough to give Hope cravings for 2 minute noodles (she only eats pea and asparagus raw).

Hope you have had a pleasant Sunday.
Tracy

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Head down

I've had my head down and been busy working the past few days. It's the thing to do apparently.
 

Actually I think it is the school holidays, it brings about a buzz of activity. No lunches to pack and no schedule to keep. It's like there are more hours in the day to take advantage of. All I know is I wake up early and by the end of the day I am tired but happily so.



The garden is providing us with lots of goodness and our lunches have been a bit cheaty. Just pick what's ready and appealing and concoct something. A sandwich, an omelette or even better a vegetable plate with some spicy zucchini pickles and mayonnaise.

Today however there is a terrible wind blowing. It is hot and dry and in my opinion a little bit scary. I think it is blowing quite strongly and causing some damage in some places. The only damage I have had to deal with is having to gather some of the clean washing from the lawn rather than the clothesline . So this afternoon the only outside chore I am doing is feeding the chickens and locking them away for the night. I have been trying to do some sewing but I just can't settle on something I want to make. It happens. I think I might just organise my contribution to Zara's swap (there's still time to join)  so that I can say I've done something crafty this afternoon.

Tomorrow is earmarked already as a baking day. The postponed high tea is on Saturday with a very much reduced guest list as it seems that a lot of people are too busy right now. Next year I think I will just make myself a cup of tea and give a donation.

Now I must tear myself away from this machine so I do actually have enough time to get started on some craft this afternoon.

Tracy

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Older and grateful


I'm one day into the next year of my life and I actually feel younger today than I did two days ago. That of course is due to the fact that I am well again after shaking the chest cold that I didn't want to have(who ever does want them?).
 
Birthdays like the New Year and Christmas and any of those significant marks on the calendar make me stop and think and contemplate whether I'm doing things right or wrong and if I should make any changes. At the moment I think I'm travelling along in the right direction but I can always make improvements I guess. I want to be kinder not just to everyone in general but to myself and my family as well, more generous. I want to be less negative. Sometimes I get dejected and despondent and have a why bother attitude and I'd like to shake my feelings of low self esteem which causes self doubt to creep in. I am my toughest critic and I never put expectations on anyone else like I do on myself. Then there are of course the old faithful ideals to eat better, exercise more etc.
 
I had a lovely day yesterday for my birthday. Tim was home from work as a surprise which was really nice. I like my own company just fine but it is nice to feel special. I'm grateful for my family and the older I get the more apparent that is to me.

 
 I'm grateful also for the greenery and bugs that are plentiful in the yard because the ducks are very entertaining when they don't know which way to turn or what to nibble first.
 I'm grateful for the asparagus as it kicks into high gear. I like it when we get to the stage that it HAS to be eaten everyday.

And the broad beans are just ready for the kitchen. Tonight we are having bruschetta with asparagus and broad beans and a little goat cheese. Simple.  Satisfying and delicious. All it involves is toasting the bread while the asparagus and broad beans sautĂ© with some spring onion then mix through the goat cheese and place on the bread. Doesn't get much easier.


Yesterday afternoon I had a big surprise. Hope brought me home a birthday gift from school. A very pretty gift from 'N' and 'M' (Hope's friend and her mum who read the blog) . Hi!

The tea towel is just perfect (and the chocolate delicious) and I felt really special to know that these lovely ladies were thinking of me. A perfect gift. That's just how a gift should work too in my opinion. Thanks so much ladies. I hope to see you next week.

What's your idea of the perfect gift?

Tracy

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Beautiful day






Just a few things that added beauty to my day.



Red oak leaf lettuce (a freebie from Agquip)
 Although my cold is persisting, I have been out and about in the garden and the day is absolutely stunning despite a gusty wind. It is just a beautiful day here.


I think when the radish get to about this stage of growth, it is time to sow another row in an attempt to have an almost constant supply. At the moment I have French Breakfast and Cherry Belle on the go but next row might be an heirloom mix from Diggers. Tim and the girls are big radish fans. Me not so much. Just one or two every now and then are enough.


Bees aren't supposed to be overly keen on windy weather (I don't blame them) but mine don't seem to mind. Except for really wet days, they are busy doing what they do. Certainly we don't check the hives when it is too windy because they aren't as placid then.


It's always a beautiful day when I have the chance to plant something. This morning I planted out a couple of capsicums and lettuces that my parents didn't want, and four herb pots I bought on the weekend- dogbane, rue, another thyme and a golden sage. And when I find an earthworm whilst digging (and I don't chop it in half) I'm very happy.


 Even the moths looked pretty today. There have been a lot of butterflies so far this spring.  I'm not sure if this has any significance or not but I like it.


And lastly the ranunculi are starting to bloom and although these ones are more simple than the big showy double blooms you can get, I really like them. I don't think this flower will last long, it has been blowing about and bending over but while it's here, it is very sweet.

This morning I also stirred the compost heap. It might not be a pretty task but there is definitely satisfaction in turning scraps and lawn clippings and manure into such wonderful stuff. I would say for sure that compost is greater than the sum of its parts. The beauty is there, you just have to look closer or blur your vision a bit.

Perhaps I am just in a particularly good mood. I even found the hissing mother duck sitting on her pile of who knows how many eggs kind of cute.

I hope you have had a good day too with at least a little bit of beauty.

Tracy

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Voice?

 
My voice has gone missing. I have a cough and when I speak it is coming out rather croaky unless I resort to whispering. I've been lead to believe the whisper is preferable. Fortunately though I do not feel the slightest bit sick. It's my birthday on Friday and I don't want to be poorly especially then. Anyway, I'm sure I'll locate my regular vocal abilities in the next day or two until. It doesn't matter too much here what I sound like so I'll keep exercising my blogging voice a little bit.
 
It probably happens in most households that the person having the birthday chooses their meal (or perhaps they choose the restaurant). It's what happens here anyway. Last year Grace couldn't decide from a rather long list of favourites so I thought why not a week of meals decided by the birthday girl. It took the chore of meal planning out of my hands for the week and she chose things that we all like anyway. So I thought why not for me too.
 


A lot of our dinners are coming out of this book this week. Lentil and squash pasties , leek and blue cheese tart, spicy lamb burgers to name a few.


And for my birthday 'cake' I am finding it hard to go past this chocolate chilli tart with dulce de leche ice cream. I'm not really a fan of cake so a chocolatey tart sounds good to me. I have the magazine from the local library and the recipe proper isn't on the Taste website as yet but there is a good recipe adaptation here if it appeals to you.


And what else to eat during my birthday week. Sugar snap peas of course. They are by far the best peas this year. I always favoured snow peas but the sweetness and juiciness of the sugar snaps has actually toppled the snow peas from their pea pedestal.


 
Bunches of Broccoli Waltham. Steamed until they are only just done. The broccoli are almost all done for the season so it's time to make the most of them.
 

And because it's my birthday on Friday, Brussels sprouts will be on the menu. I love them. My ruby variety are leaving their run a bit late and I think the warm weather will be too much for them before they crop heavily but their leaves are quite stunning and worth growing for them alone. The leaves actually taste fine. As a note to myself, I am going to try starting my Brussels sprouts earlier so they have more time in the cold and lessen the chance of them bolting when the weather turns warm (usually early these days).

Of course there could be surprises in stall for me and I might be whisked out for a fancy meal but I don't think so. I love cooking and I love cooking new things. But, I will not be washing up on Friday.

Do you prefer home cooked birthday dinners or a restaurant treat?

Tracy

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Highlights

It's a long story that doesn't need telling (no disasters involved) but the high tea I had planned for last Saturday had to be postponed. In its place last weekend was a trip to Sydney. Once Hope recovered from the horror that Central railway station is on the site of what was one of the old Sydney burial grounds (I really must not tell her these things) and from the shock of her surprise trip to the Doctor Who exhibit which is being held at the ABC centre in Ultimo.
 

It was enough for Hope to even feel better from her cold at least temporarily (she did visit the Doctor after all). Naturally the cold has worsened since we arrived home which is usually how these things work. I'm sure the cold will be history by next week as it is school holidays which does seem to be a great cure for all but serious illness.


A trip to the Lindt Café didn't hurt too much either. It is fair to say that apart from a late trip home on Sunday evening Hope had a weekend full of highlights best described as "fantastic" and "brilliant" as her two favourite Doctors would say.


The highlight for me apart from a  visit with my sister and niece, was as always, HOME. I didn't sleep in on Monday morning even though we had a very late night (I think I'm still tired now on Tuesday), I did the rounds of the garden. A few days away feels like months.

There are flowers that weren't there on Thursday, fruits too and the asparagus needed picking whether we wanted it or not (we wanted it).

Coming home to a decent soaking of rain was a highlight too.
Tracy

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Tale of Two 'Orchards'

I have two areas set aside for growing fruit which I guess could loosely be described as orchards. And what I learnt today is that they are difficult to photograph (for me anyway).
 

 
The first orchard is mostly well established and provides us with some of our fruit but although I dream of self reliance as far as food goes, realistically it isn't going to happen in the orchard. If I went down that road I wouldn't be eating a mango or banana again and I really want mangoes and bananas in my diet. Last summer we wouldn't have eaten much fruit at all if I relied on the orchards. It was a dismal year for the fruit because I couldn't spare the water for them so they survived rather than thrived and the fruit that set went mostly to the birds who were hungry in the lean year too.
 
 
This year looks a little better. The leaky tank is mended so there should be enough water for us, the livestock, the garden and the trees.
 

 
The newer part of the orchard is immature to say the least. And it's at this youthful stage that it requires the most attention. Plenty of water, mulch, compost and protection from rabbits. 


And even though a lot of the trees are little more than saplings right now, one day (hopefully) they will bare fruit. That's what is all about, planting and hoping and a bit of hard work now and then. The fruit is an added bonus along the gardening journey.

This season I want to work on improving  the soil in the young orchard. It is really not the best soil but it is what I have here. In this part of the yard it alternates between sandy and clay depending where you dig but never the much lauded loam. So that's my aim. Improve the soil and the plants should come along for the ride.

Prune d'Agen

Bee foraging Prune D'Agen

I'm not sure how other people choose their plants but I am a sucker for plants with interesting names and stories. I do also buy regular non-heirloom varieties at the nursery but the seed and plant catalogues that offer Amish deer tongue lettuce, Yellow sausage tomatoes and apples such as Improved Fox Whelp, Sugar Loaf Pippin, Worcester Permain and Geeveston Fanny draw me in every time. And yes, I have all of those varieties planted. I'm being tempted by the newest Diggers catalogue today obviously.

Better than buying anything new though, I am going to head outdoors now and plant some of the seeds already in my collection. Corn today. Planted early with the hopes that any frosts we might still have won't be too severe.

Do you have fruit trees?  What are you planting now?
Tracy

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Simply Busy

A brief chat with a friend this morning got me thinking about life and such. Well about my life in particular and how I am happy to be living it. I am well aware of how very fortunate I am to be living right here, right now. Of course things do not run smoothly and on a daily basis there are minor predicaments to deal with but they are more often than not the type of trouble that causes laughter later or even fodder for schadenfruede.
 
Bees, pollen, larvae and capped brood. Looking good.
 
Right now I am busy. Not busy in a crazy too much to do sense but more busy like a bee. I know what I have to do and it is enough. The garden is starting to pick up with new growth with the warm days (and nights recently) we have been having. Unfortunately the one really cold night we had froze the leaves and fruit that were forming on the black mulberry tree but I checked it today and there are new leaves coming on now so all is not lost.
 
We checked the bee hives on Saturday and things are looking good there. This early in the season there is no honey for us but they have enough for them and there is plenty of brood and pollen to keep bee numbers up. Last summer was quite hard on the bees with it being so dry and flowering being interrupted by the hot, dry weather. Here's hoping that this summer there is a little (or a lot) more moisture in these parts.
 
The two rams also had a hair cut on Saturday and the ewes will be shorn next week. The younger ram, Darrel, is a pleasure to shear when compared with Crinkles (so Tim tells me because I do not go into the paddock with Crinkles). He is 100kg plus of bossy ram and I'm sure if there was a picture in the dictionary of headstrong then he would be there ready to butt and bully.
Darrel at front looking unimpressed with his new hair cut and Crinkles wearing a lewd grin.
I think his attitude was picked up when he was a lamb. He was born and raised on a school farm and had more handling and human contact than necessary.
 
 

Fiona shared a picture of her wisteria (perhaps just on Facebook I'm not sure) a week or so ago and mine is just opening up now. How sweet it is.


Wisteria almost seems too good to be true. Gorgeous blooms and a scent that doesn't overpower but lingers in the air.

So having said all that, I am busy. Simply so. And in the evening if we have nothing else we want to do, we have started watching our River Cottage/ Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall collection again. At the moment we are watching "A Cook on the Wild Side". Makes me want to take a trip to the UK and cruise around in a Landrover or travel along in a canal boat just a little bit.

Tracy

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rosy

Graham Thomas rose

The first rose of the season. It is in fact the only rose flower out there and not only is it lonely but it is early too. I hadn't bothered looking too closely for flowers in the rose garden but I could actually see this one from my bedroom it was so big and bright (and almost past its prime). Now I'll be on the lookout for more blooms. Which I might say is a better pastime than washing walls which is what I did this morning.



A big thank you goes out to Gillian aka Africanaussie who has very kindly sent me some grass seeds. Not just regular, run of the mill grass, but pretty grasses which should grow well here and it gets better, it is just the right time for sowing. I feel very rosy today.

Hope you are feeling good too.
Tracy

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Asparagus- a warning

Warning: if you love your asparagus then don't convert your family to asparagus lovers too. It means you have to share and that they will eat the first of the season before they can even make it out of the vegetable garden.
 
For a long time I was on my own with the asparagus. The kids weren't keen to try it and Tim had only tried the canned variety which made him reluctant to even taste the fresh stuff. Now they all love it and it's my own fault because I just had to convert them.
 
I don't mind sharing really.


Another vegetable that has a tough time making it to the kitchen is the snow pea. It does make it tough to keep a tally of my harvest when I don't get a chance to weigh things. But, I'm not complaining, I can't think of a healthier way to snack.


No warnings necessary here. I am yet to convince anyone of the delights of Brussels sprouts. I love them and this year I have seven plants of two varieties (regular green and a ruby type) and they are all mine. Sometimes I am a selfish gardener.

 
At the beginning of the brassica growing season I had a few issues with cabbage moths and procrastinated a bit on what to do. In the end, I did nothing and things are looking good. I picked off as many grubs as I could and left things alone and it seems to have worked (this time). The moths in the garden this year had a penchant for the cabbages and Brussels sprouts but the broccoli and cauliflowers have been untouched. I hope I haven't jinxed myself and find a swarm (or whatever the correct collective noun is) of moths when I go out to pick for tonight's dinner.
 
I'm not sure what is on the menu tonight but I have some really good looking celery I want to use so I am thinking perhaps a simple soup with some homemade spelt bread.
 
I hope your garden is growing well.
Tracy

Monday, September 2, 2013

Four extra hours

Today I have managed to score four extra hours at home to work or not. How? I certainly can't conjure time out of thin air that's for sure. If I could I would be very popular. As it happens, Monday is my 'town' day. At 2pm I clock off here and head into town for music and drama classes for the girls. I also do our grocery shopping for the week. Perhaps that is one way I keep our grocery budget to a minimum, I spend next to no time in the shops because it is a busy afternoon. Anyway, today my trip is cancelled due to a flat tyre. I didn't feel right driving the car with the small emergency spare tyre so I'm staying home and hopefully using my 'extra' time wisely. The tyre has been mended so most likely the hours I have today will be taken back tomorrow or Wednesday.
 
 

What am doing? Sorting out my mess of seeds. As soon as I log off here I'm going to plant out those mint seeds on the top of the box. I have just the spot near the back step. And I think it is a perfect afternoon for sowing some radish seeds and maybe some carrots too. I keep them in the box in alphabetical order(sort of) to make it easier to locate the ones I want. The seeds in the basket are those for direct sowing soon. I also keep a couple of those desiccant sachets that come in shoe boxes in with the seeds. It hasn't hurt them any.

I'm also going to do a workout but that is not worth talking too much about.



 In yesterday's post I had a list of things to do this month. Happily I crossed a couple of jobs off this morning and the roses and front gardens have been mulched. The shed garden has been weeded and the compost is moved across a bay and there is a new batch started. Thrilling stuff... not... but it makes me happy.

I have been meaning to add a link in a post to a new to me blog that is really rather sweet. Sharon blogs at Miss Townmouse about all manner of good things including her lovely garden.

I hope I don't bore you too much with bee pictures in the coming months. I just like them so much and really it can't be boring because most likely it isn't a picture of the same bee twice though I really can't tell.

How would you spend a couple of extra hours?

Tracy