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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An Update and an Award

Well, I've been busy, busy, busy and have neglected to blog for a whole week. So here's a little update on what's been happening and a few things I'd been blogging about recently.

Those grow your own mushrooms I bought a month ago have done nothing. Absolutely nothing. Despite my vigilance with daily water sprays and keeping them in the dark, no mushroom has grown. I am tempted to throw the lot in the compost but I'm hoping that if I just give them a few more days I'll see some movement. So I will persist.

Thank you to all for your comments regarding my dog contemplations. Thank you especially to the vast, overwhelming majority of you who wrote exactly what I wanted to hear... that I should get a dog and that I'll have no problems whatsoever with doggy training, digging up the garden or mauling my chooks. Well that wasn't exactly what you said but that's how I choose to interpret it. In fact, Monkey Man has stopped thwacking his head into his hand and has reached a state of doggy acceptance. So I am contemplating a shi tzu or shi tzu poodle cross but I will be patient (I know doesn't sound like me) and wait 'til later in the year when we return from a little holiday.

After a two year hiatus, finally, some action on the house renovation. Monkey Man agreed to getting a quote from an actual professional to finish off the plastering. And when he realised that it wasn't too expensive we booked him straight away and plastering has started. For the first two days I was excited and happy as can be. Especially because the tradie turned up on the day he said and on time! But my excitement has quickly turned to despair. Anyone who has lived through plastering knows the mess and chaos that it creates. And every single room is being worked on simultaneously. We were re-stumped last year so there are massive cracks and chunks of plaster falling off in every room. In fact a bookshelf was holding up the wall beside the fireplace in our lounge room. So although we don't have to re-plaster every wall, we do have furniture piled up in one half of ever room. Getting covered in dust. And as it is that time of month for me, last night I was navigating my way through the chaos and bawling at the enormous chore that faced me this morning - moving the kids' toy shelves to the other side of the room. I am prone to tears at the best of times but when the monthlies come along I'll bawl about anything. This month I reckon I have an excuse.

Anyway, on the first day of plastering our tradie was busy working in the bathroom and the front door was wide open because he was in and out with his plastering bits. Monkey Man and I were both working from home too. Then Monkey Man came and told me he'd just had a chat with a fella who was standing at the door looking about. When Monkey Man saw him, he asked directions to the train station. I said it all sounded highly suspicious and he was probably about to rob us. Which made Monkey Man laugh and made me feel a little guilty about my lack of faith in humanity especially after recently blogging about my failings in this area. But sure enough five minutes later... Monkey Man went to the car and witnessed a police chase and the bloke was caught and handcuffed a couple of doors up! Apparently he had been thieving all over the street.

So I will continue in my nasty, distrustful eye-narrowing ways for now because my instincts have again been proven correct. Lucky he didn't take off with my greenhouse at the front door because those seeds are happening. Greenhouses are wonderful and I recommend one to all veggie growers.

And finally, the lovely Fiona from Arboredale Farm has given me an award. Thank you so much. It does feel wonderful to read comments and get responses from people out there in blog-world.

This award is given to bloggers with under 200 followers. The rules are to:
•  Thank the giver and link back to them.
•  Nominate 5 others and let them know with a comment on their blog.
•  Copy and paste the award to your blog.
•  Have fun blogging.

1. Well, firstly I would like to nominate Hazel at Hazel Dene for this award because I do religiously read her blog. But of course she's already been double nominated for the same award! Nevertheless I will nominate her anyway because there's nothing I can see in the rules to stop a triple nomination.
2. And I would like to nominate Ali from Mud Pie because I also read her religiously and because she's bloody hilarious.
3. Funkbunny was one of the first blogs I started to read and helped to inspire me to start blogging myself so she gets one.
4. Mark from his English Veg Plot is always making useful comments and he is a wealth of veggie gardening wisdom so he gets one from me too.
5. And finally Mrs Bok from the BokFlock deserves an award today because she's clearly going a bit bonkers contemplating nappies for a chook.




Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Garden Lunch

Armed with my scissors and basket I went for a wander through the garden in search of lunch today and this is what I picked.

Oh yeah, I'm as happy as can be with this change in the weather.

I was worried the broccoli was past it. I'd left it too late and little yellow flowers had appeared. It's the first time I've managed to grow broccoli and I was expecting it to look like the tight-headed stuff you buy at the market. But it doesn't. More like broccolini. Which is fine by me because it tasted good and nothing can make me grumpy today.

I'd also been told to try out the tips from the broad beans. So I chucked a few of these in my basket too. They are great. Even raw. There were a few silverbeet and spinach leaves, coriander, parsley a lemon and chilli.

Back in the kitchen I made a dressing with lemon juice and zest, chilli, olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped parsley and coriander. I cooked up some noodles, steamed the broccoli and lightly dry fried some flaked almonds and the silverbeet. Then I wacked it altogether with a couple of tomatoes.
And I ate it all in the sunshine under the blossoming plum tree. It is so true that food you grow and cook yourself tastes much better. Oh yeah, I was feeling pretty smug and happy. Because I am the temperamental type to allow the weather to dictate my mood.

This week there'll be a spring in my step no matter what. My sourdough today failed to rise much more than a bit of flatbread. No idea why - it's been working for me every other week. But today I don't care. Because the sky is blue and there are loads of bees buzzing about in the blossoming plum tree.
Even those rotten white cabbage moths that have re-emerged have failed to dampen my spirits. Because look! The one I caught today has been distracted by the flowers instead of going for the neighbouring cauliflower. Something has clearly been eating that leaf to the bottom right in my picture - but I couldn't care less.
I've even removed the countdown to spring in my sidebar. 'Cos as far as I'm concerned it's already here.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Thieves, Seeds and a Hothouse

I've been planting seeds this week in a frenzy of spring-anticipated excitement. Until today I had a plant nursery happening in our upstairs room along all the windows. At the risk of boring you silly here's what I've planted: salty ice plant, capsicum, eggplant, dill, tomatoes - heirloom, tommy toe and tiny tim, more broccoli, peppermint, bergamot, amaranth, basil, spinach, chives, comfrey and coriander. Also some marigolds, amaranth and coneflowers for bees and prettiness. It was getting so crowded upstairs with seed trays I decided to get myself a mini hothouse today.

I've been contemplating one of these for ages but the problem was where to put it. I finally settled on our front verandah. It's north facing getting quite a bit of sun and is protected from the wind. I was reluctant at first to put anything out there. The front yard is Monkey Man's domain. It's a bloody mess of a jungle actually but I wipe my hands of responsibility. No, my reluctance had not much to do with aesthetics but more to do with thieves. We have been burgled so many times that I have become a little paranoid. I won't leave rusty old garden tools, bicycles, kids' scooters, prams - nothing on the front verandah lest it be stolen.

I wasn't always this way. In fact I was as gullible and optimistic as Monkey Man once upon a time. But I realised today I've become rather too suspicious.

When I first moved in with Monkey Man we immediately set about renovating and knocked down the back wall. We were protected from the elements by a thick black plastic and that was pretty much it. Intruders who dared venture into our building-site backyard needed only to climb through the slit in the black plastic and open the kitchen door. I did question Monkey Man at the time about this and suggested we get a padlock or something but Monkey Man would have none of it. He has a blind optimism and faith in human nature. Bless him. And I was pregnant and self-obsessed at the time so I didn't really care to think about much except the baby I was growing. The house was in complete chaos. Boxes piled to the roof, mess everywhere, living in one room with a fridge and microwave and couch and mice altogether. So it took a while to realise when things went missing that they were actually really missing not just misplaced amongst the rubble. A work laptop, loose change, gadgets, a digital camera with pics of me and my naked pregnant belly in the bath. A couple of teenagers had been paying periodic visits and helping themselves. I know they were teenagers 'cos our neighbour caught them in the backyard one day and gave them an earful.

Well we eventually got a back wall to replace the plastic but every so often we were visited by thieves anyway. We're a bit isolated - next door to a vacant block of land with no neighbours opposite and on a thoroughfare to the station. Also, I'm pretty sure word had got out in the thieving world that we were completely daft and stealing from us was a cinch. Every so often I'd come home to find some bloke peering in our side window or pushing on the front door. And he'd look at me with fake confusion and ask if Dave or Daryl lived here and was this number 49? On hot nights we'd leave the front door open with only a screen door shut to protect us from the mosquitoes. One night I heard the front gate jingle and someone slowly turning the handle on the screen door. Monkey Man headed outside to find... you guessed it a bloke looking for Gary from number 32.

Finally, I persuaded Monkey Man to put up a side gate and get a security door. And we haven't been burgled since. But I've become suspicious and distrustful. So suspicious and distrustful that I nearly didn't locate the mini hothouse on our front verandah. Until I came to my senses.

Yep germinating seeds and the flimsy hothouse surrounding them will likely bring in a tidy sum at the local cash converters.





Monday, August 15, 2011

Doggy Dreams

Eaten bok choy
Those naughty, fluffy chooks do sometimes escape from their extensive chook run. And when they do, they eat things I don't want them to eat. Like my bok choy. And my silverbeet.

Now this is entirely my own fault. They can see lovely, juicy leaves from their favourite viewing place under the trampoline. And I haven't fenced their area off properly. This is because they only occasionally decide to explore and I am a bit lazy about some things. But it is frustrating to have your veggies eaten by chooks, especially now that I am mostly growing things from seed which takes longer and requires more of an emotional investment. So I can only wonder why oh why am I contemplating getting a dog?

My doggy desire started as a niggly little fantasy but grew 'til I found myself trawling the internet researching dog breeds. And so it was that I dared broach the topic with Monkey Man the other day. He of course wacked his hand into his head and groaned. "At least" he said "you're not dreaming of another baby".  I'm not sure if my doggy longing is a substitute baby longing and I'm not sure I want to analyse it too deeply. Nevertheless, I do find myself wanting a dog.

Now I'm no novice dog owner - I do know what I'd be getting myself into. But I would value some advice from you chooky doggy lovers. Monkey Man has assured me that a dog is likely to eat and terrorize the chooks. I know there are no guarantees, but I'm imagining that I would get a puppy and would train it to be a friend of the chook and to leave them alone. And if it wouldn't, I would use a fence to divide the garden into different territories. A comment that made Monkey Man smack his head even harder into his hand. 

Of course, I am a wee bit embarrassed to tell you what sort of dog I am dreaming of ... let's just say it's small and fluffy and would reside indoors mostly. I know I'm so predictable. But it's the sort of dog that isn't bred to chase things... I think.

The other negative is the damage a dog is likely to do to a veggie garden. I'm not so happy about the chooks eating my veggies and I would be even less happy with a dog jumping all over my garden and digging things up. But in my favour, let me remind you all that I am a teacher. And if I can manage large groups of children of all ages (even surly teenagers) surely I could train a puppy to keep off the garden? And keep it's teeth away from the chooks...
... oh and do it's business in a little doggy toilet corner of the garden.

Oh, and before you respond, I'll just clarify that comment I made before about my being lazy. I was of course being flippant. I would have endless enthusiasm and zeal for dog training and doggy fence-building. I am actually a bundle of energy. You know those people you meet who can't seem to sit still, always jiggling about. That's me. I'm the type who would rather go for a jog 'round the block at night after putting the monkeys to bed instead of lying slothfully on the couch watching crap TV.
Oh yeah, that's me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Winter Wednesday ... the End is in Near.

Buds on the plum tree
It's taken me weeks to finally hook up with Hazel's Winter Wednesday posts. Remember on that first week of winter when I posted about turning over a new leaf and things to love about winter and appreciating all the seasons even this rotten, miserable one?

Well I tried. I didn't complain about the cold nearly as much as usual. And I did get out in the garden much more than in the past. And I did manage to grow some veggies. So that's a big improvement on previous years and I'm inclined to give myself a pat on the back - because I need encouragement even when it's only from me. But not too big a pat because I couldn't find anything positive to contribute to Hazel's Weekly Winter Wednesdays. Until today. I can manage today a little rave about winter again - how wonderful it is ... because it's nearly over. Yay.

According to my countdown to spring there are only 21 days to go. Last week was as warm as can be for winter. In fact we had our hottest August night on record with a minimum of 17.3ÂșC and yes the radio stations were playing a lot of Neil Diamond the following day.

But even though the weather has gone back to its usual dreary wintry self, there's a spring in my step 'cos I see signs of spring everywhere at my place.

1. Monkey Man whipper snippered the grass on the weekend. That only happens at the end of winter. 
2. I pulled up all the weeds in my dormant veggie patch and realised that a bit of sun was actually shining on this patch. Soon I'll be able to plant a crop there.
3. There are buds on the plum tree (see pic above)
4. Life coming back to the fig tree.
5. And finally, last week we had rainbows. Who doesn't love a rainbow? My little monkeys apparently. They were too engrossed in their daily ration of screen time. Apparently a game of plants vs zombies is far more entertaining than looking at a real life rainbow from the window. Hmph. Anyway, we had lots of rainbows last week. Daytime rainbows and double rainbows and morning and dusk rainbows. This snap was taken by Monkey Man just as the sun was going down. Now you can only have rainbows when there's rain and sunshine. So I'll take the sunshine as another sign that spring is almost here.

Yippidee.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Broccoli Success

Finally, I've managed to grow a brassica.

For two years I've done a bit of a half-hearted effort but they were always gobbled by caterpillars laid by those dreadful white cabbage moths. This year I had lots of replacement seedlings on standby and I waited 'til it was a bit colder and there were fewer moths fluttering about. I still had a couple of leaves destroyed by the caterpillars and my kale was gobbled by a rogue neighbourhood goat but this patch is looking good.

I can't wait 'til this lot grows up a bit and I can cook it. I've been mad keen on broccoli this winter and have been eating loads of it. I've only just discovered that broccoli stems are delicious too. Am I the only fool who has been throwing away broccoli stems? You can just slice off the tough outer bits, chop the stems and cook them up. They're terrific. Another thing I discovered after reading one of my Diggers' magazines is that bought broccoli (unless its organic) is drenched in pesticides so you need to wash it very well. Of course it is - those pesky moths. Anyway, that's two new things I've learnt this season.

So, in anticipation and celebration of pesticide free, home grown broccoli, I'm sharing with you my current favourite lunch. Today I made it with lemon from the tree (our trees are dripping with lemons at the moment) and a bit of chilli and parsley also from the garden (yep, despite the weather I am still producing chillis). I also had two red capsicums in the fridge which I decided needed eating. I know they're not in season but I do love roasted red capsicum so you could include these too or some other vegetable you have hanging around if you want. I also sometimes chuck in a handful of toasted, flaked almonds. But I forgot them today.

Warm Broccoli Pasta
• 1 head of broccoli chopped, stem included
• 100g pasta
• 2 tsp olive oil
• chilli finely chopped (as much as you like)
• squeeze of lemon
• handful of parsley, finely chopped
• 1 red capsicum, roasted and sliced (optional)
• salt

Steam the broccoli and cook the pasta. Mix together the chopped chilli, parsley, lemon, olive oil and salt. Allow cooked broccoli and pasta to cool and mix with the dressing and roast capsicum.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blogoversary

Yip, yip yooray, yip, yooray, I'm one year old today!

One year ago today I started this blog. Thanks to all of you who read and make lovely comments and inspire me with your own blogs and good advice.

My year ago post celebrated beetroot and included a recipe of beetroot choc chip muffins. I didn't grow beetroot this year. The truth is I don't much like beetroot. They bleed everywhere and stain your hands and chopping block and always seem like a lot of bother. Although beetroot does look good growing in the garden. And a picture of it has adorned my blog header for 12 months. But I figured a blog birthday is a good day to change the header. So I attempted to put a new picture up top which showed my lovely crimson flowering broad beans. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the photo the right size and I remember I had to do lots of fiddling about last time. Which I really can't be bothered doing today because the sun is shining and it's warm even though it's winter and this has made me very excited.

I had also planned to make a cake with something from the garden in celebration. I thought a lemon poppy seed cake would be nice. But we already have some sweet treats in the fridge given to us by Monkey Man's sister and I don't want to waste them and I really can't be bothered baking today. Because, I repeat - it is a beeeauwdiful day today and I think I would rather pull up a weed and go talk to the chooks. So we'll have to make do with a candle poked into a lemon to celebrate.
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