Friday, 27 May 2011

Early Mornings are on My Mind

Today is going to be a glorious day!
This morning when I got up it was still quite dark but as the sun came up and the fog settled you could just tell it was going to be a wonderful day.
Here in Queensland where we live we are blessed with dry winters.  We live inland about 100Km form the coast so we get very cold night time temperatures (last night was only 4 degrees c and it is not even winter yet) but lovely warm (yesterday was 24 degrees c) sunny days with generally not a cloud in the sky.
Today will be one of those days and boy oh boy would I love to be out there in the garden and doing things around the house.
But alas I have to work.
We have visitors coming for dinner tonight so I had a lot to get through before work this morning.
I love mornings they are the time of day when I plan what is happening for the day and get all my house work jobs done or at least started. 
I like to take my time and ease into the day.  As well as doing my jobs I like to have a peaceful breakfast with a cup of tea and read my book for a few mins then it is back to the jobs.
First thing to be done was walking the dog for an hour to keep up my commitment in supporting Daffodil in her month of little changes
Then it is time to feed the animals (Chickens, Cat, Dog) which is when I got the lovely photos.
Then a load of washing went on, breakfast had (no bread allowed but lovely home made bircher muesli instead) then it was on to getting dinner ready and lastly doing the dishes that don't go in the dish washer.

We are having a Chinese dinner with Fluffy Rice, Braised Beef with Shitake Mushrooms and Chinese Red Dates and a Hot and Sour Cucumber Salad.  I have made this all before a number of times and it is always a winner with guests.  The big plus as the cook is that after browning the meat you just add everything else to the pot and slow cook it for a few hours, couldn't be easier.
Then all I have to do tonight after work is the rice and salad, and try and remember to take a photo to go with the recipe I will post for you all.
So dinner is pretty much done, washing is on the line and it is off to work I go.

What are your mornings like?  To you have lots to get done or are you a dash out the door kind of person?
Do you eat breakfast, if so what do you enjoy?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Cheap Toys for Pets

1 Cute Puppy + Strip of Bark from the fire wood pile = Hours of Fun

Yes I know I am bias but it was just too cute to share.  Until right at the end she had no idea she was in the middle of a photo shoot she was just totally engrossed in playing with the Bark.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Making Small Changes- The first test

So the other day Daffodil over at A Little Piece of Green said she was going to give up bread and butter and alcohol and walk 1 hour every day  for a month in order to loose a few kilos.
And I thought to myself  "hey you could do that too and support Daffodil" not to mention the possibility of loosing a few kilos along the way.
Well the first test came the other night when we had to attend a surprise 60th (venue, the pub) with a dinner.
And what did they serve up with dinner but tasty little dinner rolls with single serves of butter, oh how I love dinner rolls and butter.
But I passed by those tasty morsels and moved on before I could have a second thought. And as for the alcohol well that was easy, volunteer to be the driver.
So far so good 3 days down 27 to go....

Friday, 20 May 2011

Being Thankful For Wild Life Encounters Is On My Mind

I heard the squawking, and through the mist they came.
Three Red Tailed Black Cockatoos.
They come down from the hills and perch in the tree across the road to eat the berries.  It is a Red Cedar and since it has been fruiting these 3 have visited a few times.
The same thing happened last year but I have no idea if it is the same Cockatoos or different ones.
As the mist cleared I was able to get a bit closer and take a few more photos.
It is at times like these that I wish I had a super duper camera with a great big zoom lens on it.
Hubby and I have been talking about planting out some Red Cedar trees and when we do I will make sure that they are close to the house so that when the Cockatoos come, which not doubt they will, we will be able to enjoy watching them.
You can just make out the little yellow berries they are after
Then there are these guys, a pair of King Parrots.  They turn up from time to time and like to be fed sunflower seeds on our out door table.
For a while it was just the male turning up, then he brought another male with him and then it was his lady friend below.  They are pretty tame and you can get very close to them, normally I can sit and have a cuppa right beside them while they eat.
The male has the red head and the female has the green head
I am very thankful that I live in a place where I can see the beautiful wildlife this country has to offer and I plan to do my bit to make sure they are around for others to enjoy as well.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

At lunch time today I looked out the window and this is the sight that greeted me. 
Jessie just looked so very happy snoozing there in the sun.  What better way to spend an Autumn morning.
I wish it was me.

I dashed off to get the get the camera, got this shot and then she woke up. Opps sorry Jessie

I missed the photo of the big stretch but then next one is mid yawn with the "so you woke me up are you ready to play" face.

Oh to be a spoilt pet, life is good here on the farm.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Pin'a Colada Muffins

These Muffins are just so tasty and a great way to use up tinned pineapple when you have only used part of the tin.  For us this is generally after Pizza night.
I call them Pin'a Colada Muffins because they include the major flavours of a Pin'a Colada (minus the alcohol) Pineapple and Coconut with a lime twist for a tropical taste.
If you have all of your ingredients ready these take less than 5 mins to make so make sure you have your oven preheated.
Pin'a Colada Muffins Recipe - Makes 12

2 Cups Plain Flour
4 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Cup of shredded Coconut
1/2 Cup Castor Sugar
1 Egg lightly beaten
1 1/4 Cup of Milk or 1 Cup unsweetened Yogurt mixed with 1/4 Cup water
100 gm Melted Butter
1/2 Cup Pineapple Pieces that have been chopped in half


Zest of 1 Lime
Juice of 2 Limes
1 Tbs Castor Sugar

Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Mix in coconut and castor sugar.
Add all wet ingredients and mix just to combine.
Spoon into greased muffin tin and bake for 12-15 mins at 220 degrees.

While the muffins are cooking zest your lime and combine the zest, juice and castor sugar.
As soon as you remove your cooked muffins from the oven use a teaspoon to add the juice mix to the top of each muffin while they are still in the muffin tin.
Remove after a few minutes and cool on a wire .
Just out of the Muffin Tin - Lime topping just visible

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Saving Plants from Drowning

As I mentioned in previous post we have had a very wet last 6- 8 months and during this time it became obvious that some of our fruit trees were not going to make it long term without some action.

Last year I planted out:
An Avocado
Blood Orange
Kaffir Lime
Eureka Lemon
Wax Jambu (Syzygium jambolana)

Wurtz Avocado
In the background: Wax Jambu (left) and Red Mulberry (right)
 At the time we enriched the soil with plenty of compost, adjusted the pH where required, added gypsum to help with drainage, fed with seaweed solution and mulched after planting.  In my mind we had done everything right.  Wrong.

Having lived in the house for only 8 months at the time of planting and moving in at the end of an extended period of drought we were unaware of exactly how water logged our soil could become.  We have good top soil but clay underneath about 20 cm down.
So drastic action had to be taken or it was plants down the gurgler.

I made the decision that we had to dig up some of the plants and replant them in large mounds to create much better drainage.

The Wax Jambu (Syzygium jambolana) is a Lillypilly that has hot pink pear shaped fruit that look like they are made of wax and and it is doing ok so we have left it alone along with the Mulberries that also seem to be doing fine despite the wet feet.  They have gotten some new mulch and a foliar feed of seaweed solution and will be getting a feed of blood and bone and they also need some more mulch.
Mulberries Red at the front and White in the background
So on to the citrus.  When we planted the citrus we did create small mounds for each of them to aid with drainage but for some reason only the lemon remained on a mound a year later and the Blood Orange and Kaffir Lime were now at ground level.
So we left the lemon alone and just added some compost mixed with river sand and added mulch then watered in with a seaweed solution.
The Blood Orange and the Kaffir Lime were dug up and replanted into large mounds of compost, river sand and good soil then mulched.  I have ordered a lime from Diggers to add to our citrus collection and when it arrives it will get the same treatment.
Citrus (front to back Blood Orange, Kaffir Lime and Lemon)
The Avocado, Pomegranate and the lone Blueberry (the other drowned) were given the same treatment and hopefully they will all enjoy some renewed vigor in their raised mounds.
The lone Blueberry bush

Over time I will be working on making to mounds wider but at the same height to give the roots plenty of well drained soil to grow into, but for now it's a start.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Welcome back Sunshine

Self Watering Seed Tray

It has been incredibly wet here in Queensland where I live and this year seems to have so far delivered more wet days than fine.
So I was extremely thankful that I was able to spend some time outside in the sunshine over the weekend planting out seeds.
Some were planted directly into the garden beds and some into my self watering seed tray that I purchased through the diggers club. 
I have found this incredibly useful as I am prone to forgetting to water seeds resulting in poor germination and development.

Last year I planted out 2 rows of beetroot and one of Silver beet and it kept Hubby and I (as well as some of the family) going for a number of months.  Since then I have found a large number of ways of using beetroot that I am looking forward to trying (beetroot brownies mmmmmm) so this year I plan on planting out a few more rows.
I have still stuck with just one row of silver beet, as even though it takes quite a few leaves to give each person a good serve, we had plenty last year and the space would be better used for something else.  Not sure what just yet.
I have also sown leeks, cabbage, broccoli, sage, parsley, basil and lettuce into my seed tray.
In addition to the new things I have sown I found a few sad looking seedlings of capsicum, eggplant and a mystery cucurbit, that didn't get planted out when they should have.
Now in reality these will probably amount to nothing, not only because they were left too long as seedlings but are also being planted at the wrong time of year.  However if I was just to throw them away I would never know if they had the possibility of becoming anything so hey why not.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Return of 80's Fashion

This week has been a bit of a busy one for us and saw the return of an 80's fashion icon, the Leg Warmer.

Jessie and her fancy Pink Leg Warmers

Jessie our puppy and my No1 garden helper had to be de-sexed and have her dew claws removed from her back legs.

A dew claw is the little extra toe/thumb up by the wrist (if dogs have a wrist) of a dog and it is on the inside of their leg with it's own little claw.  Dogs use the front ones for holding on to things but the rear ones do not have much of a use and I believe they are left over from when dogs climbed trees for prey (but I am not 100% sure).
Dew Claw removal is a common procedure on dogs, although it may not always be necessary and you should follow your vets advice, and it is mainly done on the rear claws.
Dew claw removal is done for safety reasons not aesthetic ones as they are not that visible without looking for them. Generally they are removed in active dogs as they can often get caught, tear and cause bigger issues.
Not every breed of dog will have rear dew claws and out of a litter of pups not every pup may have them.

In Jessie's case her rear dew claws were not attached internally by any bone or ligament and kind of just flapped about if you touched them.  This was all checked out by the vet when we got her and he advised having the rear ones removed when she was getting fixed as she was already under anesthetic and as an active dog they could cause her issues.

So she had her surgery and she was a sad sleepy puppy for the rest of that day but she looked oh so cute in her leg warmers. 
The vets advice to us was as follows:
1. Keep her leg warmers (leg bandages) dry - as he said this we laughed, yet again it was raining, but we said we would try and keep her on the veranda.
2. Keep her calm- have you met my puppy??? I asked, the vet laughed. Calm is not a word she knows, however again we promised to do our best.
3. Leg warmers off in 5 days stitches out in 2 weeks.

Well the first night she was calm and did keep her leg warmers dry and did stay on the veranda, mission accomplished day 1.
The next morning we were down to 1 leg warmer the other having been pulled off, still on the veranda and still calm but not as calm as yesterday, day 2 mission not quite accomplished and back to the vet for a new leg warmer.
Day 3 Mission has gone to the dogs (quite literally) hypo puppy back in full force, has escaped from the veranda a number of times and can be seen running around the yard happily barking at cows in the paddock.  That night back to one leg warmer, the other one this time, and still escaping the veranda so had to be tied up (at 11pm) so she would go to sleep.
Day 4 The lost leg warmer has not been replaced and the vet has said this is ok but still to try and keep it dry. 
So Jessie is confined to the veranda each morning on a long lead so she can get to the garden to do her business but is not able to run about madly as she wants.  We let her off in the afternoon once the grass has dried from the heavy dew we had this morning. 
Fingers crossed the other leg warmer will last one more day then it will again be farewell to that 80's fashion icon.

Friday, 6 May 2011

A bit of real Farming

Our "Farm" is 3.5 acres and currently consists of the fully fenced house yard, including the chicken run, orchard and vege gardens, and the rest is one big paddock that has a small dam a few trees on the road frontage and our bore.  At some stage I will take some photos and take you on a bit of a tour but that is for another post.
Our property was once part of a large dairy farm so it was cleared of all but a couple of trees, something we are going to try and change.
About 6 months ago we purchased a whole lot of natives in tube stocks and planted them out along our far back boundary fence to provide us with a bit of a wind break as well encourage the native wildlife to come back.  We planted out and fenced off the area using second hand stakes and dog wire (the stuff with square holes in it) that we picked up from the local dumps recycling area.
Sadly the cows and horses were pretty interested in the grass on the trees side of the fence and broke through the wire to eat the long tasty grass, and the tops out of some of our trees.  Most of the trees have recovered but once they get bigger there may be a few odd shaped gum trees that have multiple trunks, oh well that's life.
So we decided that it was time we put in a proper fence before investing any more money in trees that may not survive the livestock.
Proper fencing has be a topic of discussion for a while now so Hubby has been cutting up trees for posts and they have just been waiting to be turned into a fence.  (Hubby is an Arborist/Tree Dr/Tree Lopper so has access to trees and owns chain saws and portable milling equipment).
So we had the posts, step one complete.
We then marked out a string line and paced out equal distances for each post marking the grass, then it was time to bring in the big guns, a post rammer and some neighbours who actually are real farmers.
I am sure we keep our neighbours amused with our "farming" antics as we trek about in our gum boots.
The Post Rammer in action- being operated by our neighbours the "Proper Farmers"
For those folk who have never had anything to do with rural fencing there are basically 3 ways you can do it.
a) Dig by had with a shovel, put the post in, back fill with soil and ram the earth back around it
b) Use an orger bit (a giant drill that goes on the back of a tractor and drills the hole for you) then put the post in, back fill with soil and ram the earth back around it, or 
c) Use a post Rammer that basically hammers the post into the ground, no digging or back filling.
The ground is so soft here at the moment due to all the rain this year that the posts went in no issues at all.
The posts are about 2m long and go about 80cm in the ground
So the posts are in and now we just have to wire them up then trim off the tops of any that are too high.
We are also going to put a gate in at one end so we can get in and out easily to plant, mow and whipper snip.
Hubby waiting for the last post to go in
Now I just have to wait till the wire goes on and I can head off to the nursery again.  This time without worrying that my hard earned cash is turning into cow manure.
We are quite proud of our first "real farming" activity although if I can convince Hubby of the plans I have for our "farm" there will be some more fencing practice to come. 
I am determined to make "real farmers" of us yet.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Planting, Re-Planting and Pruning

This year I am taking the risk and going to try growing garlic. 
I have heard that there a a lot of chemicals used on imported garlic and while I always try to buy Australian garlic we eat a lot of it and it can be quite pricey.
I have not grown it before and from what I have heard it can be a fickle thing up here in Queensland.  Apparently garlic needs cool temperatures to multiply from the 1 bulb you plant, into an entire head of garlic.  Garlic has quite a long growing season so it would be/possibly will be, a bit sad, come the end of the growing season, to only be harvesting just the one little bulb I planted and it not have multiplied.
But I am willing to take the risk.

I am a Diggers Club  member and have purchased  2 bulbs of each of the following Garlic. Cream (softneck), Oriental Purple (hardneck), and Australian White (softneck).
Soft necks generally do not have a flower head but are the most common grown as they have a longer shelf life in storage.  Hardnecks do have flower heads, a bit like onions, and generally have fewer cloves but the cloves are bigger in size.  Apparently hardnecks prefer cooler winters and do not have as good a shelf life as the softneck varieties
I planted them out in my raised vege beds and 2 weeks later they are growing happily however the Oriental Purple variety seems to be so far much more vigorous than the other 2.

My little Garlic patch, 7 rows in total.
See  how the ones on the left are looking stronger and are bigger than the other rows.

I have also planted out some snow peas as well, twice in fact.
My little helper decided that digging in the garden was so much fun she needed to participate too, the day after I planted my already soaked snow pea seeds, when I wasn't looking.
My little helper
So the second planting have been given some extra protection in the way of gutter guard held in place with tent pegs which has worked a treat and they are all starting to climb.  I think I will let them get just a little bigger before removing the guard.
My Peas protected by the gutter guard
I finally took the plunge and pruned back my perennial Basil (Sorry little Bee's) that I had let get overgrown and flower to feed the bee's.  But it was time for a hair cut or should I saw a crew cut.
The huge pile of pruning from my Basil
I pruned back what were originally 2 cuttings given to me by my father in law and had turned into hedges.  Off to the compost for that lot plus I have taken some cuttings myself and am indeed thinking about a Basil hedge.  I grows so quickly, has flowers for the Bee's if let go and can handle the weather we get here.
The twiggy remains of my Basil, I cannot believe how big they get in just 1 year
As you can see from my photo the twiggy remains of my Basil are shooting so if I am lucky they will come back, if not I will just plant out some of the cuttings I have taken.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Getting your monies worth

I love a food bargin, I really like to get my monies worth and in the last week I have snapped up 2 great bargains.
The first bargain was from our local fruit and vegetable store where I try and do all my shopping for fresh produce other than at farmers markets.
Often the fruit and vegetable store has boxes out the front full of goods that are slightly past their best, a bit bruised etc and going for a song.
Last week I pick up a box that included:

1.3kg of Potato's
3 Apples with small soft spots
3 Big Red Capsicums with some soft spots
2 Pears each with a bruise
920gm of Snow Peas (this is what was left after topping and tailing and discarding the not so good ones that got fed to the chooks any way)

And the cost for the great haul of goodies.... $3.00
Yes that is correct, three little gold coins from my purse and I left with a box full of food.
The apples and pears got used up in juices and the potato's were put in the pantry.
The capsicums were diced and frozen ready for adding to pizza of into any manner of dishes that needed a bit of something extra.
And after top and tailing the snow peas the ones that made it past hubby, who was conveniently lurking in the kitchen, were blanched and frozen ready for adding to stir-fry's.

On a side note I later discovered a bag of snow peas stashed away in the fridge for his lunch the next day so the 920gm is actually less that what there was.

The second great bargain I got was some Broccoli.  It was on sale for $1.99kg, now that may not be the cheapest it has ever been or will be over the current season but it was cheaper than I had seen it in quite a while so I grabbed 4 large heads (just over a kilo) and headed home with my find.
I blanched all of the florets and froze them and then moved on to the stems.

Now I know that the stems are often discarded but treated correctly I think they are a great addition to stir-fry's and help to bulk them up if you are short on other ingredients.
I basically make big matchsticks out of them blanch them and freeze them, then they are on hand for when I need them.

Broccoli Stems blanched and frozen and the frozen Broccoli heads ready to go in the freezer

The other day I was reading a recipe for banana skin curry so I am interested on hearing about what other people find uses for instead of throwing it away.

What do you do?

Monday, 2 May 2011

Back after a break

We had a great break away and there will be some posts to come about our time out but for now I am going to spend the day catching up on all of the blogs I follow to see what everyone else has been up to.