Friday, 24 June 2011

On My Mind is Preparing for a Holiday

In a few days time we will be heading to NZ to catch up with family and friends and meet some new additions to the family.
But before we go we have a lot to do.
We have house sitters coming to look after the cat the dog and the chickens and I need to prepare instructions for the "How To" of things around the house.
It is not something that you think about living in your own home with your own things, but visitors need to know how things work and the routines that your household has.
Last time we went away my in-laws house sat for us and we came home to discover they had had trouble working out the TV and remotes etc so that is another thing to add to the "How To" list this time.

Well the time is ticking away and there is still lots to do, so rather than sit here there is work to be done and it is that work that is on my mind.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Soil Factory

Here at our place we have a dedicated team who make good garden soil for us.  They are the best kind of staff you can get.
Willing to work 7 days a week without complaint.  Paid in food and water and a roof over their heads.  And as a bonus they actually give us some of the food  they produce as well.

Check them out...
Yep these guys are hard at work for us and they do not even know it.

Our chickens have a backyard (outdoor run) that is approx 50 sq metres and it is fenced off with 6 foot fences to keep out the wildlife and puppy.  They then have a 2 storey dwelling with living and dining downstairs and bedrooms and nesting upstairs.

Upstairs Bedroom

Nesting Boxes
Surrounding their living quarters they have an encloseable courtyard that is about 6 sq metres and it is in this courtyard that most of the work happens.
The Court Yard

Every 3 months we dig out the soil that is in the courtyard and put it onto the gardens.  We then replace this soil with a thick layer of tree mulch (Hubby works as an Aborist/Tree Surgeon so we have a steady supply of weed free mulch).
Now the problem with using tree mulch on your gardens is that it leaches nitrogen from the soil, so if you are using it you need to apply additional nitrogen.  This not only stops it being leached from the soil but also helps to break down the mulch and turn it into lovely soil.
So this makes tree mulch a fantastic option for the chickens courtyard.  They add their lovely droppings (never thought I would say droppings are lovely but there you go) to the mulch layer and then as they scratch around in it and move it about they are basically turning the mulch over so that it all gets mixed together and breaks down to make lovely soil.

So that's the tour of the soil factory done and I'd better go and feed the workers.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Preserving on a Small Scale

Well I have to admit that I love to preserve food.  The trouble is that there is just Hubby and I so we really do not need large amounts of any one preserve.  I mean making 12 jars of strawberry jam when you use less than one jar of jam every 2 months means that you are stuck with just one type of jam for 2 years.
No thanks.
This is a conclusion that I have only come to appreciate in the last year so there are a few things (Tomato Relish and Strawberry Jam) that I will not be making again in the foreseeable future while we give away/work our way through our stockpile.
There are so many wonderful foods that can be preserved in a number of fashions Relishes, Pickles, Jams,Chutneys and as whole fruits just to name a few.  The whole idea of preserving food is so you do not waste the glut of a crop that occurs when it is in full season and so you have that food at hand all year round in one form or another.
Currently in my pantry I have the above mentioned Tomato Relish and Strawberry Jam as well as one last jar of Cherry Chutney, some Pears and a big box of empty jars I plan to fill with yummy preserves.

First off the mark are some Preserved Lemons.  This is something I have wanted to try for ages and having made a few jars I cannot believe how the store brought ones can be so expensive.  Now as mine are still maturing perhaps the proof will be in the eating but some how I doubt it.
3 jars of Preserved Lemon

In addition I have made Stewed Apple with some Granny Smiths I picked up cheaply at the markets.
I love a bit of stewed fruit with my cereal and I like to leave the apple a bit chunky so that if you need to whip up a quick desert you can just add some frozen berries and a crumble topping, a few minutes in the oven and hey presto yummy desert.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Well Hello Jack

This morning I had a little sleep in, well till 7am anyway.
As I went about my first jobs for the day (the first jobs of every day) of letting the dog off and feeding the chickens, I took a moment to watch my breath catch in the cold morning air.

Then it occurred to me.  It was cold, blinking cold in fact.
And as I looked down there it was, the first frost of the year. Well hello Jack Frost.
Even though we are an hour North West of Brisbane it is the West part of the equation that does it.
So I flew inside for the camera and did a quick whip around and here is what Jack had been up to...

He was on an out-door table

Jack was here

And in the Chicken pen

And in the Orchard - Not that Jessie noticed as she bounded along with toy in mouth

However she did decide that it was too cold to lie on the veranda in the sun
It was apparently much better on a chair in the sun - Naughty Puppy
So Jack has paid us a visit and although he did not leave his mark as strongly as he does in the southern states of Australia, it was felt with a still chilly 2 degrees at 8.30 am.
No doubt Jack will be back again so I will need to rig up some protection for a few plants around the garden.  I will let you know how that goes.

Friday, 17 June 2011

On My Mind is Catching up with Family

In just over a week, all going well with the Ash clouds, I will be catching up with my family to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday.
I was born and raised in New Zealand and lived there till I was 16 when I left to live in Southern Chile near where the volcano is erupting.
I then returned to New Zealand lived there for a few more years then decided to move to Australia. 
For the last 12 years I have lived here in South East Queensland in various locations but without any family.  I should clarify here that I did not move to get away from my family and I have a great relationship with them.

I am fortunate enough to see my family at least once a year.  In fact often I see them more as I always make one trip over there a year and generally one of my relatives pop over here for a visit, normally in their winter when our temperatures are much milder.

But the thing that I miss the most is all those little and some not so little occasions like birthdays, baby showers, anniversary's and general family get togethers.
On this trip I will be meeting my Niece Hannah for the first time and also the baby of my cousin who I am very close to.
I have a great relationship with my 3 remaining grandparents and I know that at 33 I am extremely lucky to have such a lot of quality time with each of them but hopefully there are still years to come as I really value their input to my life.

What gets me through is my Husbands family who treat me like one of their own.  They are loving, supportive and kind and with them I get to share in those little and some not so little occasions.

But there is nothing like going home and I treasure every moment I have with my family during the time when we are together.  So with just over a week to go the excitement is building and catching up with family is on my mind.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A Few Garden Pics

Well I have been a little slack on posts this week due to other commitments and today I am still pressed for time but I thought I would show you some of the things that are happening in the garden.

A lovely Bell Chilli/Pepper
Great when you want a bit of heat but not full on Chilli flavour
My snow peas on their 8 foot climbing fence
They are just starting to flower so bring on the Snow Peas
The Rainbow Chard finally starting to do it's thing.
Garlic coming along nicely with a few seedling pots amongst them
The Passion Fruit are still Fruiting
This is a Loquat Tree I am growing from seed
I had 4 but the others did not make it.
Well that's it for today folks as I needs to press on with the next task on the list.
And you never know I might even be back for another post tomorrow.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Keeping Warm is on my mind

Now I know that I live in Queesland and "warm" and "cold" are relative terms but I have to say that the last 2 days have been freezing!!!
Yesterdays maximum temperature was 11 degrees with a wind chill factor dropping the temp to around 8 degrees and the head lines said it all.

Brisbane shivers as top temperature nears all-time low

But what I am really thinking of are our pets, the chickens dog and cat.
I have started to feed our chickens a warm mash mix at night,well really mid afternoon as it is getting dark so early that if I leave it too late they have already gone to roost and don't come to be fed.  So hopefully this will encourage the girls to keep laying even though the weather is cooler.

Jessie our dog is still a pup and full of beans and spends a lot of her day running around like a mad thing playing by herself so I am not too worried about her.  Plus she can always find a nice warm spot somewhere.

Our cat however is very spoilt.  She is nearly 12 and spends 23 hours a day sleeping and there is no chance of her being cold.  Check out her favourite position.

Could life get any better?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The End Has Come

There comes a time when some things just come to the end of their life.  They have served their purpose and been enjoyed, but at some stage you must make to call that the end has come.

And such is the case for Jessie's Blankie.

This old woolen picnic rung in its tartan glory has been Jessie's since she came home on the first night as a 5 week old pup.  It has served as a cushion, blanket, toy, wrestling mate and most recently an outfit (ever seen a puppy in a kilt?)
There was a better shot of her in her kilt style glory
but of course I was not quick enough with the camera
So what gave it away that the time had come?  Well if you follow the breadcrumbs (blanket crumbs)...

Who Me?

The last few hours of blanket wrestling

"Perhaps if I hide it over here..."
Sorry Jessie but what you don't know is that bits of Blankie have been finding their was into the compost bin over the last few days and the rest is destined to follow.  However based on what I have seen I think I will be finding bits of Blankie around the yard for a while to come.
So now I am on an Op Shop quest to find a new Blankie for Jessie, how sad that I will have to visit a whole lot of Op Shops : )

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Hooray - Have you heard the News - A Halt to live exports (2nd post today)

Prime Minister Julia Gillard halts live cattle exports to Indonesia

Read more:


At this stage the ban is only in place for 10 days and since Indonesia accounts for 60% of our live cattle exports an outright ban is not likely to be the long term solution.
So we as the general public need to make sure the issue is not just swept under the rug.  Yes we need to support our farmers, but we do not need to support animal cruelty. 
As intelligent human beings we need to use our brains to come up with a long term solution that supports everyone in their desired outcomes without suffering to animals.

And for anyone who does not know what this is all about I would suggest that you go pack a strong stomach and got to the website and watch the News Story that Four Corners aired.

A Post for the Duchess

Recently I commented on a post by the lovely Duchess Declutter about one of her bantums called Little Banty.
I let her know that we have Little Banty's twin Bubble is living at our place.
The photos are not great (sorry) but as you can see there is quite a resemblance.

Bubble has been a great mum to all of the chicks she has hatched and loves having a little brood to look after.

Sadly Bubble is almost permanently clucky so when she is not sitting on eggs for us we have to either keep getting out of the nest box and putting her out with the others or put her in the broody cage to try and break the cycle.
We pretty much stick with just getting her off the nest morning and night as she is so often clucky that the broody box is not practical (2 days out of the broody box and she is clucky again).

The face that says do not disturb
So there you are Duchess, photos as promised, albeit a bit late.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Op Shop Finds

Now like a lot of people I love a good forage around in an Op Shop.  There is something exciting about it.  It is not like going to a retail store selling new items where you pretty much know what you are going to find.

No, Op Shopping is like a treasure hunt and sometimes like a sport where rules apply and more than one person is after the prize and it is best done on a regular basis.
There are a number of qualities that make a good op shopper. 
You have to be patient and take your time to dig through, sort through and look high and low because little gems can be hidden between under and behind other items somewhat less appealing.
You have to know what is a bargain and what is not.
You have to be a good sport.  If someone else picks it up first it is theirs, but if they put it back on the rack/shelf it is any ones.  All savvy op shoppers know that if you want to think about it, keep it with your while you keep looking.
And finally, you have to know when to say no, this is by far the hardest of all.

Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary (cotton) and over the weekend we went out for lunch and while out I found some great little goodies.
The first 2 items were my husbands wedding anniversary present to me and very fitting.  They are something I have been keeping an eye out for over the past few months and thinking surely some will turn up in an op shop soon as I really didn't want to pay full price.
And there they were.  2 white cotton Valances, one for a queen bed and one for a double bed.  Both in perfect condition and made by Sheridan.  Total cost $9.95, thank you very much.  I haven' included a picture of these as they just look like a crumpled sheet at the moment.

My next little find was this Tupperware container used for beetroot, olives or pickled onions etc. I already have one of these but for $4 I will definitely have another.

Then I came across some Fowlers preserving jars 6 size 27 jars, 5 lids and 7 clips for $14.50. Bargin.

Then I found this lovely platter for just a cople of dollars, it has crazing but no cracks or chips and is very pretty and a good size at slightly larger than a dinner plate but not heavy.

And finally some old coffee jars in a rage of sizes for $1.80 for the 4.

Well I was pretty with all of my finds and I love the thought that not only did I not have to pay full price but I also get to give a new life to someone elses old things.

Have you found any bargins lately?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Things that go bump in the night

We live in a old house in the country and the reality is that it is not really secure to the small critters that inhabit the area.
There seems to be constant parade of frogs in the bathroom and laundry as well as the odd one in the kitchen and living areas.  This is much more prevalent during summer when all the windows are open day and night but even during winter they find their way in.

The other night I came across this lovely Emerald Spotted Tree Frog bouncing about in the bathroom.  Sadly because of the poor light and my poor photographic skills you cannot see his lovely emerald spots, but look him up online for a better look.
He gave me quite a fright.  He blended in with the wall and as I walked to the basin he jumped out at me.  Nothing like random wildlife hurling themselves at you in the wee hours of the morning to give the heart a bit of a jolt.
I really love that we can get up close and personal with some of the native animals that live in our area, although because we are surrounded by open paddocks we do not see Marsupials on our land (yet), but we see lots of birds, frogs, lizards, and the occasional snake ewwww. (Sorry snakes)
We plan on re vegetating the land so perhaps one day the Marsupials will come and visit.

What native animals do you have visit at your place?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Pretty in Pink

The other day I was felling a bit sorry for myself and how poor me does not really have any flower gardens where I can grow lovely blooms, plant out perennial boarders of plants and grasses and generally have a garden worthy of the Australian Open Garden Scheme.
Then before letting my mind wander down the path of woe is me, I dragged myself back to the reality that is:

a) I do have a bed full of flowering Lavender running the length of our veranda
b) I do have 2 dedicated rose gardens either side of our front steps
c) I do have a shade house full of Bromeliads, Orchids and Ferns
d) I do have plenty of room for planting out gardens but have put off doing this as we are aiming for a new house one day.
e) We may not get a new house for a while and garden beds can be moved and plants transplanted.

So after coming to the realisation that the only thing stopping me from having (more) flower gardens is me and time, I decided to look at what I did have and here is what I found.

Air Plant Flowering
Silk Rose
Zygo Cactus

African Violet

I guess sometimes you just have to look a little closer to see the beauty around you as you may be walking past something spectacular without even knowing it.  And most importantly focus on what you do have rather than what you don't.