The sound of silence

Well! That was a long time, wasn’t it?

I just stepped out to check something, and look what happened.

Needless to say, lots to report, but the salient point is this: we are in he midst of choosing a builder to extend the tiny cottage and take it from just under 10 squares to just over 18. We won’t know ourselves!

So we are guilty of extreme neglect in all sorts of areas of our lives, namely the garden.

It all looks pretty much the same around here, but shaggier and more unkempt, because drawing up plans, talking to builders and submitting to council are all massive time-sucks that we’ve been valiantly battling for over a year.

In other news, which comes with a cute photo, we finally felt ready for another cat. Meet Clawde, age 1yr, who is requisitely fluffy, though slightly more aloof than we like in a cat. She is I-man’s cat. The look she gives me when getting a pat from him is priceless.


Jurassic Broccoli, Batman!

Our broccoli patch threatens to block out the sun if you stand in the right spot. The plants are HUGE. My father, who has grown veggies for most of his life, glanced at them on a ‘tour of the estates’ as we call it, did a double take and went over to peer at them and ask, “What’s THAT?”

Now that they have gone to seed, they are even taller and more imposing. They’re covered in bees all day, look spectacular, but smell hugely sulphurous when they’ve been in the sun awhile. Ick.

This particular veggie patch is quite close to a neighbour’s house, so I’m planning to put them out of their misery soon and haul these babies out. Not before making a careful assessment and saving some seed though! Broccoli this big, that fed us for two whole months, needs to be continued.

Who is threatening who, exactly?

…and then there was Beetroot

There was beetroot to harvest just a little while ago, and they were all lovely and big, too!

I got just over 1kg of it (that’s 2 pounds for my US friends), which was just enough to try out a pickled beetroot recipe I’d had my eye on for a while. Of course, the beetroot pickling happened at the same time as the cooking of the dinner, as well as some preparation for outings for school etc: why does so much of my canning happen when I’m just so busy I can’t stop to scratch myself? Why not on a sleepy Sunday when not much is happening?

Anyway, after everyone was in bed, and the canner finally got to 94 degrees and stayed there for half an hour, I produced these:

Let me tell you, beetroot pickled with cloves and cumin seed are to die for. There was also a half jar that we’d already hoed into too, but that’s not in the picture… I believe that someone was standing just out of the frame, making noises of appreciation. Yum! We’ve all been gorging on the stuff, and are almost through another jar. Just one to go!

Now we’re trying to figure out where to squeeze in some more beetroot in our bursting veggie patch, because such tasty treats weren’t in our minds when we planned it all out. We were thinking of tomatoes and basil… but that harvest storm is yet to come.

Not just a blip…

… on the radar.

I’ve been quiet again. It’s because I really didn’t know what to say. Let me tell you what happened:

We decided to adopt a rescue kitten. He was from interstate- Western Australia no less – as far from where we are as is possible to get in this big country of ours. Arrangements were made, dates set, and our whole little family took an exciting late-night trip to the airport to pick him up.

We were delighted, as he ticked every box we’d listed as ‘things we want in a cat’: he was big, fluffy, vocal, friendly, smoochy and playful. He wasn’t timid, and liked dogs. He was darkish coloured, so safe to go out in our strong sunshine. Best of all, he had tufty ears, and tufty toes. His tail was like a bottlebrush – long and bushy. His name was Amigo. Here’s a picture:

The sad truth is that Amigo was hit and killed by a car 3 weeks after we got him. He’d only been allowed outside for 4 days, and was still learning what’s what in our busy world. The awful thing is that a few seconds either side of crossing the road when he did, and he’d still be here, sharing our lives.

We were shattered, our hearts broken. Pets dying is always horrible, but a kitten? Somehow more awful. So I’m cross with Life at the moment, and having to deal with the hard questions that children ask when things like this happen isn’t helping.

Sigh. Perhaps Spring being in full swing at present will help, sooner or later…

The Catch Up Post


It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, there hasn’t been much to talk about. Winter was here. It was long, and cold, and so very, very, very WET. It’s a little surprising how wet it was. I looked up the Bureau of Meteorology, and there was some information there that said it was the wettest June/July period for Melbourne on record. Basically it was so cold and wet – sideways rain, temps not above 6C most days – that we stayed inside, tending the fire and knitting things. (well, the others may have played cards, but I knitted.)

However, looking at some photos of the last little while on my phone, I saw that we had actually made some progress on some tasks… so with out further ado, via dot points and photos, here’s what we’ve been doing:

All that rain made the path to the cars very muddy. After the I-man fell one day and caught himself on one hand to save his suit from being mud-streaked, he snapped. And spent the Queen’s birthday long weekend digging a path bed, laying gravel, and using a whacker plate to compact it down. We’ve now got a path that we love, and MUCH less mud and dirt in the house! Win! (That there’s the Boychild helping. He’s so happy in his raincoat in the mud!)

The path got finished, complete with some winding through the garden, and I planted some lavender that I got at a bargain price from a local nursery to make an informal hedge eventually (that’s the lavender in pots, about to go in, and yes, it was a very rare sunny winter’s day – one of the few we had):

Amusing-shaped vegetables were harvested from the winter vegie patch. This one’s a parsnip. Only a couple were forked and twisted like this, the rest were gorgeously round, fat and just as a parsnip should be. Roasted alongside an organic chook… YUM!

Other things of note:

  • Boychild’s purple sprouting broccoli began to grow actual broccoli! Here are 2 shots: one just starting, and one just at harvest:

  • We’ve been eating masses of broccoli for the last 4 weeks. The plants have gone totally mad, and the side shoots that grow after the central head has been harvested are succulent and delicious, either raw or cooked! Yum!

  • Coco the goat has gone back to our friend’s house, just for a while, until the blackberries grow out of hand again. We’ve booked her back for late September!
  • We are taking the opportunity that a low livestock-to-person ratio offers, and renovating the chook shed. It is a lovely big one, but is not rat and fox proof, and the run is enormous, taking up the heart of our property. We’ve made a plan, and are excited about moving fences, opening up the heart of the place, and finally getting feathered friends again. We love chooks! Hooray! Photos of this are to come, I think it deserves a post all of it’s own.

And now that it’s Spring again, and the sun has been wrestling itself out from behind the rain clouds, I’m sure there’ll be more to tell, and more to show.



Now what?

As you can see, we’ve brought the pumpkins in from the cold, and are keeping them cosy by the fire. We don’t want a re-run of last year’s Pumpkin Slowly Rotting From The Inside (what’s that funny smell near the piano) Disaster, so we have our work cut out for us.

We tried to ‘cure’ them outside as recommended by Jackie French, but the method requires several sunny days… and all we had once we got them off the vine was RAIN! Here they are in various states of ‘trying to be cured’ for storage:

So far, the good things have been: pumpkin roasted with whole garlic cloves, pumpkin soup with African spice swirl, pumpkin… um yes, I believe that’s it. I’m thinking of just roasting a whole heap, mashing it and freezing it for adding to soup/stew as a thickener of sorts, but apart from that I’m out of ideas. The great Stephanie Alexander in The Cook’s Companion is not particularly forthcoming either, with only 3 pages devoted to the large yellow things, but some good ones to try, perhaps: Pumpkin and Amaretto Tart (savoury!), Pumpkin pie, and pumpkin and ricotta filling for ravioli.

Wish us luck: we have 2 children who don’t like pumpkin.

Borrowing a solution

Now, this isn’t like borrowing the solution to Question #27 on a chemistry multiple choice. I promise it’s not.

We have been mulling over our blackberry problem for a while now, and proposing various herbivores as appropriate solutions. But the actuality of an actual real live sheep/goat/alpaca/elephant has been offputting – all of that fencing, tethering, defending from marauding dogs that are sure to sniff out that we have a new takeaway on legs for them captive at our place, the possibility of vegie patches devastated by a quadruped on a rampage. It all just seemed too hard.

But then a friend rang, needing a place for her goat to stay while they gave their garden a rest for a while and built a suitable goat shelter for the coming winter. I said yes before I’d even thought about it. I must say I worried a little when I hung up. (What would happen if somehow I didn’t do something necessary and the poor goat suffered a terrible fate?) But I needn’t have.

Meet Coco, the solution to our blackberry problem that we’ve borrowed from some friends:

She is the tamest, most compact goat I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. We walk her around from place to place on the dog lead, tethering her on a nice long rope near impenetrable blackberries, and she EATS THEM. I honestly thought that she wouldn’t. However, it seems that she actually prefers them to almost anything else. (I wouldn’t trust her with the vegie patch or the orchard though…) When she is finished with a patch, she bleats for a bit until we move her to the next tough, spiky, prickly patch which she then demolishes in her delicate, nibbling way.

I think I’m in love.

(For all the worriers out there, we also have a couple of disused chook runs that have secure fences and gates, and she gets time off her tether in there. Ok?)

Lightening! And Thunder!

We had a storm a few weeks back. Not a huge, long one. Not one that was memorable in any really big way from where we were, inside, with our torches and candles, because in our part of the world if it’s even just plain old raining the power goes out. For a short while, it was a loud storm, with some impressive thunder, but nothing that I would have pegged as remarkable, or even that close.

We were therefore rather surprised to find this on venturing down the back paddock later in the week:

One of our pecans had been hit by lightening! Truly. We could see where the lightening had entered at the top, and traveled down the tree, exploding the base of each branch it came to. We’re still cleaning the tree up, and doing what we can, and we’re not sure whether it will need to come out or not. We really don’t want to lose it… but may have to if it will just up and die anyway. This below is just one of the split branches, taken when I shimmied up the tree to saw a few hangers off:

On the bright side, losing the tree could mean MULCH! Oodles of mulch. We’ll see.

Ooer. It’s a chestnut.

…or several hundred. The I-man and I were trying to plan the next couple of weeks this morning, because it’s the Easter School Holidays, which means Events! And potential Trips! Yippee!

Unfortunately, we kept being interrupted by two small fry who just couldn’t wait to show us things/tell us about things/ask us to play games Outside, In the Garden despite all entreaties that if we were left alone, we would be planning things that included having Fun. It was to no avail, so we sent them on a mission, expecting them to get distracted and begin playing, after which we would not see them for a good long time.

We were wrong. We sent them down to the bottom of the block with a basket each, and told them to check if there were any chestnuts ready for gathering. Well… within ten minutes they were back, with this:

The chestnuts had taken them a nanosecond to gather, and that was a miniscule portion of those already on the ground. Our children are terrific gatherers. We are very proud. Unfortunately, they haven’t moved on to the processing side of things yet.

The gathering of figs, melons and quinces were a later, collaborative project called, “Harvesting for All the Family: a mandatory, participatory workshop.”

After that, we mowed the paddock, tore out all of the tomatoes and hung them to ripen in the greenhouse, pulled out the spent cucumber plants, planted sugar snap peas and podding peas in their place and planted oodles (metric measurement) of spinach, silverbeet, pak choy and beetroot seedlings in where the tomatoes were. I can barely move, I’m so sore!

We certainly know how to spend a Sunday.