Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday baking

I love Sundays. I've fallen into the habit of doing baking on Sundays more often than not - it seems so old fashioned. But I can see all the reasons that people through time have done baking on Sundays. It's calm. It's festive. Friends pop over. Weekdays can be too busy. I find it relaxing to cook and really enjoy just trying a new recipe to test the duck eggs with! We have so many...too many. The damn ducks! ;) Today I found the best so far. It uses 6 egg yolks and whites separately. That's a half dozen in one go! Coconut Friands with Lime Curd. YUM. YUM. YUM.

And this morning after our morning walk I also constructed a bird feeder. They are eating the duck food anyway, with our cat looking on threateningly I wanted to at least provide them somewhere a little out of reach. I get that feeding the birds can be frowned upon, but we will be using this for when the weather is just too awful for them! The poor baby birds can be heard screeching from the tree tops calling for their supper. Forgive me ! I made it out of a rescued rusted old flu thrown as rubbish in nearby bush and a big old flattish rock we had lying around. It's dug a way into the ground to stabilise it. The inspiration actually came from Chris Clarke's extra-ordinary bushfire house that he built after the tragic bushfires in Victoria last year. His newly built house was burned down 6 days after finishing it. So he started rebuilding a new one and what resulted is amazing. Click here to view pix of Chris Clarke's house..

Anyway - here's my bird feeder.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mini glasshouse

Today we went for an afternoon drive to Blackheath - just 15mins west across the top of the mountain from Katoomba. Our main purpose was to visit the nursery to buy some plant goodies which we did, however we stopped in a little funny second hand shop just across from the railway tracks on the south side that we quite like visiting. It's very quirky, the guy who runs it had an old gramaphone playing on high rotation the whole time we were there....Some strange woman screeching from beyond the grave...it sounded around 1930s. But outside the shop he had these new little kitsch glasshouses for seedlings which i just couldn't pass up! It's exactly what I've been looking for but didn't know. There were three different sizes and I bought the largest. I've been looking for some sort of glasshouse type thing, after discovering the joys of seedling growing and was tempted to buy an old window we saw today at a garage sale. Old windows can be used on an angle propped up in the garden as a kind of halfway idea. But this was perfect and reasonably cheap ($35). So in my seedlings go!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Birthday party food

With A's birthday yesterday we had a special food celebration. Gorgeous fish and fennel pie, followed by Apple Pie (first one I have ever made), followed by chocolate birthday cake. YUM. And speaking of birthday cakes - below is a pic of A's 9 year old's birthday cupcakes, decorated by her and my niece a few weeks ago. Gotta love kids and creativity. These are beautiful.
and the makings of my first apple pie, taken from a very very old Woman's Weekly cook book - you know the ones, before they got all "donna hay" on us!

drowned parrots

We've just come out of the other end of days and days of rain, which brought a few extra birds into our yard looking for food. The poor king parrots around our house were very hungry - even the magpies were coming into the front yard calling for food. We don't normally feed the native birds, but when they are sad and wet, and we can hear the babies calling in the trees...well....enough to say a couple of bird feeders later we had flocks visiting. We know that the previous people in our house use to feed the birds, and 3 years on, every spring they still come visiting. We've also had a migrating flock of long-billed corellas visiting the park opposite. The beak curves all the way down like a long digging shovel which they use to dig up critters out of the earth and their chirp is like a wicked laugh! It's very funny. They're quite rare in the blue mountains - not normally stopping in these parts. We also had a beautiful eastern spinebill fluttering around one of the sedums plants looking for pollen. With all the rain a lot of the pollen tends to be washed away.

One of our family of parrots....you can see how wet this one is...

Through the rain and mist, the eastern spinebill

A visiting long-billed corella...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Willow arch for beans

Yesterday A's 9yr old and I went down to the community gardens to cut down some noxious Pussy Willow from near the stream there. This is a type of willow which has destructive tendencies along the streams and swamps of The Blue Mountains. However! The long bendy sucklings of the willow make for perfect arch building. I've been planning an arch for my scarlet runner beans to grow up and over, and decided to build one, rather than spend more $. After watching some quick tutorials from the web on square lashing knots I have now built the main structure. :) It's pretty solid - I used garden stakes bashed into the ground as the foundation and then tied to each a willow suckling on each side. Bent them down in the middle and tied that together. I used mainly wire in variations of the square lashing knot because - well...wire is wire. I will soon tie more cross sticks to create a better grid for the beans to climb up. One thing that A has advised however is to watch out for the sucklings taking root! Apparently they just need a bit of water, put them in the ground and watch out! So I will probably take down the arch at the end of the season to avoid this....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wheelbarrow from the old ladies at the garage sale

Yesterday in the middle of the snow 'blizzard' we went garage sale hunting. We came across a very non descript brick house with the small sign outside. We went down the drive way and around to behind the house where there were three old ladies sitting in the underneath 'garage'. And there in front of them were about 10 painted old vintage wheelbarrows with various plants in them. The little sign said $15-$20. I couldn't believe it meant for a whole wheelbarrow - I thought perhaps the plants. After a lovely conversation where we learned her husband was tired of wheeling them around everywhere - we parted with $15 and wheeled our new one back up the driveway and on to the ute to take home. The paintings are quite kitsch but we love them, so they are remaining as is! Here it is...[that's charlie our duck in the background) (complete with the succulents that came with it)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's Snowing - like a blizzard!

Unbelievable snow falls in katoomba today - yesterday it was 20 degrees...tomorrow more of the same - but today! - It's the heaviest snow fall for a couple of years.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cicada visit

Our very naughty cat just brought in this beautiful cicada. It's about 2 inches long. It's now back out in the elements....The beautiful gold wings almost looked fake.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nest boxes for Parrots

We have noticed a Galah couple nesting in the top of nearby sewerage vent pipe thing. Apart from the pooy smell that will waft up during summer, it's also quite dangerous and sadly a sign that there must be few hollows left around our area. So I built a new nest box (specific size for parrots) for the large population of parrots and rosellas we have in our garden. I took the instructions from the Sustainable blue Mountains website. The hardest part was mounting it to the tree - it's about 15-20 feet up and we had to fully extend our ladder and then climb on a branch to manage it. I used wire put through plastic pipe to protect the tree. It's not perfect by any stretch ! I meant to connect it to a spring at one end to really attach it well - but it was too dangerously high for me to get a good grip or hold of anything. If I catch any birds nesting there over the coming year I will be sure to post a pic!
From various for blog
From various for blog

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pipsqueak pear in flower - and it's beautiful

Our miniature pear plant is in flower - and it's beautiful. I love spring. This pear (aka Pipsqueak Pear) is a really small pear tree about a 1.5 high - but fruits full juicy pears! We can't wait.
From various for blog

Monday, October 4, 2010

Still raining, crushed eggshells around the lettuce!

It's still raining. Flooding in some areas. Stats are stating to appear - like coldest September in 5 years....or coldest first day of October in 20! After only just planting out the rest of my seasons lettuce seedlings 2 days ago, I suddenly thought that the snails too would be coming out with all this rain...so I went down to the vege patch and sprinkled some crushed egg shells (from our own chooks...very sustainable ;) ) around my 'own' seedlings which I have raised since 'birth'!. I don't mind if the snails get the bought ones - but given I started out planting 35 seeds, to get 11 lettuce seedlings to transplant, and of those only 4 remain...(one word - cat).... I'll be damned if I am going to let a slug eat them! - I am keeping close watch.....

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Raining, raining.

It's been raining for 24 hours. Which normally would be good news as we haven't had such heavy rain for weeks...so my garden's getting a great soaking. BUT! I did just plant my carrots and I am pretty sure, after inspecting them, that the seeds have soaked, washed out, uncovered and spread everywhere. :( I will wait for a dry spell (apparently in about a week!) to go out and recover with more soil. Damn!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Nantes Carrots

Well third time lucky. I am trying to grow carrots (again!). This was last years attempt when I tried small round carrots...(click here) The soil around our parts is quite rocky and sandstoney and I have a feeling the previous attempts failed due to the basic reason this root vegetable couldn't grow downwards....! BUT! With plenty of room left in my raised verge vege garden bed I thought I would give them another go. The 'raised' part of the raised garden bed is 40cm - more than enough good soil depth I think for healthy carrots. So I still have some heirloom seeds left of the Nantes Carrot variety and have duely planted three rows. I just used my finger to dig a shallow trench, sprinkled in the seeds, then covered up with seed raising mix. They will need to be thinned out twice, - first when about 5 cm tall, and then again when about 15cm tall (those ones you can eat I think). This is assuming the birds don't get the seedlings. If I get about 20 carrots per row, - about 60 carrots all up - I think that will last our home about 2-3 weeks! (we eat a lot of carrots!). So really an experiment in my determination to get carrots growing here.

A bit of history about the Nantes carrots...The Nantes carrot takes its name from the city on the Atlantic coast of France where the surrounding countryside is ideal for its cultivation. (“It only attains its full quality in a mellow, deep soil…,” wrote Henri Vilmorin in the 1885 edition of his family’s seed catalog.)

Here is the pic of the carrots bed after planting...Will update in about 4 weeks the progress...
Carrots with beetroot in background