A journal of my favourite pastimes gardening, farming and sewing.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Veggie garden...

Today's haul: tomatoes, zucchini, leeks, papaya, beans, some eggs,

and the biggest parsnips I think I have ever seen (49.5cm is the bigger one).

Thursday, 28 October 2010

What we harvested today....

9.75kg of tomatoes (can't keep up)

4.6kg of zucchini and a handful each of basil and parsley.  The biggest zucchini was 20cm long.

 These ingredients together with some carrot, spring onions, garlic and seasonings, will make a lovely tomato passata.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Roses roses roses

My roses are blooming lovely.  When I pruned them in winter I thought uh oh I've cut back too much, but they have come back better than ever.

The David Austin roses are both flowering strongly.  Their full blown heads are just marvelous.

David Austin Heritage

David Austin Spirit of Hope

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The back deck has a floor

 A milestone at last - we have put the sheets down on the back deck.  After all the rain over the last few weeks, we finally have a fine weekend and we are making the most of it.

This is standing on the deck looking at the back of the house.  The window in the middle of the wall will return to be a door and the window on the right (kitchen) will be enlarged with a servery added.  The window on the left (bathroom) will probably be moved and resized at a later stage.

This photo is standing on the deck looking out to the north east.  This is late in the day so most of what you see is in shadow but in the mornings it will be a lovely spot for breakfast.  The dogs too no doubt will love lying in the sun on a cooler morning.

The last photo here is underneath the deck. Although it's not too high, there is enough room for us to walk comfortably. We will also be storing our camper trailer under here to keep it out of the weather. I will probably park my car here too in wet weather to unload shopping etc.

Now we move onto ballustrading, and then beams etc for the roof. We need to have the roof on by the end of November to allow our solar panels to be installed. Then, we are going to have a long lie down!

Thursday, 7 October 2010


At Easter we planted out about 15-20 coliban seed potatoes.  These have now been harvested.  What a good investment - my little trolley was full.  We've now sorted them into a hessian bag and its about half full.

We were very lucky to score more seed potatoes, the lovely pink desiree from my cousin.  Hopefully we have as much success with these.

Tomatoes are also starting to ripen now, which means I'll be starting to make a tomato pasta sauce.  I was surprised at how difficult it was to find a recipe that used fresh tomatoes rather than tinned ones.  Kind of defeats the purpose from my point of view.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Jessie the Dog

We have added another dog to our family.  Jessie is a 3yo kelpie-smithfield cross who needed a new home because she wasn't being exercised enough where she was living.  She is pretty overweight and we expect that will change with the running, walking and playing that she's doing now.

We will need to watch her with the chooks though, yesterday she chased one of the roosters all around the chook run and into the woodheap.  I was on the mower and could see tail feathers poking out of the woodheap and it took a long time to get him to come out again.

We're planning get both dogs some basic obedience training, mainly for when we have visitors, so they don't get bowled over!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


After a relatively mild winter (according to the locals) we now seem to be well and truly into spring.  However for the last two months to date, we've had over 100mm of rain, which apparently is unusual here.  We're not complaining - with our concrete tank leaking and only the large poly to rely on, any rain is welcome.

The deck is moving along, although slowly, as we've had a couple of weekends where we've had to go to BBQs etc which has cut into working time, but we're hoping for another push this weekend.

We've sold another group of sheep, and we're now left with 7 - the ram, Esme and her littlies, the two oldest lambs and Queenie.  The littlies will be sold off once they're a little older, but the rest will remain and any offspring will be sold as required.  We're hoping this will keep them well fed on grass in summer and in winter when the grass dies out, the feed bill won't be too bad.

We've also got another 3 brown loman chooks who are slowly settling in.  The roosters (3 now) are still in line for the chopping block as they seem very argumentative and don't contribute anything to the table.

The veggie garden is also coming to life now that its spring, the peas are finished, the beans are about midway through, and we have harvested cauliflowers, cabbages and now broccoli.  I've just finished pickling about 7kg of beetroot so hopefully that will go down well in summer on the salad plate.  The potatoes are getting very close to harvesting which will free up space for more capsicums - both mini and maxi.  The tomatoes are one big jungle but I can see heaps of fruit which will be bottled as pasta sauce etc. 

My one real failure this season was the carrots.  I got carried away and planted way too many which.  When we thinned, we transplanted the thinned seedlings out - but made two mistakes - the soil was too dry, and the roots bent back on themselves.  So we have ended up with some quite distorted and stunted carrots.  Well lesson learned, once this crop is all out of the ground, I'll be sowing more, but very sparingly!  Put it down to experience.

We've put in corn and zucchini which are both up and going, with cucumber, pumpkin and watermelon to go in shortly.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Goodbye Gertie & Cheryl...

Sheep Update:  Yesterday we sold two of our original girls - Gertie and Cheryl.  A couple from  Canungra rang up in response to our ad and were looking for two lawnmowers.  These two girls fitted the bill perfectly.  They were rounded up and loaded onto the trailer and drove off into the afternoon calling out all the way.  I'll bet they now think they've died and gone to heaven - 3 acres all to themselves! 

Although we were sorry to see the girls go, we really did need to reduce numbers a little as our sheep yards have been eaten fairly bare.  We have been hand feeding all through winter and, with the birth of all the new lambs, the costs of feeding have been escalating. 

We had started with a small flock of six ewes and one ram about 9 months ago, and our numbers now stood at 13.  No doubt over summer, if we have some good rain, our grass will be reinstated, but in the event that doesn't happen, hmmm.

Esme and "the littlies"
Our most recent births, the triplets to Esme, went well for about 2 weeks, but sadly we lost one of "the littlies" a girl one cold windy night.  The remaining girl and boy are both doing well at the moment.

The Vegie Patch

With the warmer weather starting, we have seen some exciting developments in the vegie patch.  For example the cauliflowers are starting to form their luscious white heads.  One plant has four heads on it so far.  These are the Early Snowball variety and they do not get as big as those you see in the green grocers.  As we are only two, a smaller variety suits us better.

We have also seen quite a number of green tomatoes developing on some of the 40 bushes we have growing.  As the bushes are up to nearly 3 feet high, its a bit of a relief to see that not all the plant's energies were put into growth.  I had also tossed some cherry tomatoes into another garden bed to see if their seeds would germinate and happily I can report that they have so we're looking forward to yet another variety for summer eating.

About 2 weeks ago we planted three varieties of sweet corn and these are now starting to poke through the soil.  We planted in four blocks so we should have an abundance fingers crossed.  Also planted at the same time were zucchini plants as we love eating these.  They have now also germinated, so I'm expecting some rapid growth as the days warm up.
Tomato Jungle

Our carrots are very bushy now so we're starting to pull a few up.  Unfortunately we have found that those thinnings we transplanted are all stunted and deformed in shape.  Now I understand why the gardening books say don't transplant carrots as they don't like it.  Lesson learned!

We must be getting close to harvesting our potatoes now, the lush green tops have started to turn a little yellow.  I have had an exploratory poke around and yes, we have spuds!  I'm looking forward to making a lovely mash with these.

Projects Around Home

The deck is progressing well.  The front section is now useable and we will be having Fathers Day breakfast and lunch out there weather permitting.  We have nailed off the ply sheets, filled the gaps and nail holes and after a good sanding down, we will paint it until we decide what we want to put down in the future. 

This then leaves the rear and side sections still to be finished.  At the rear the beams are up and these need to be secured to the house before sheets can be laid.  The side is a similar job, and we need to allow for the staircase to be added on the side as well.

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Vegie Patch

Now that the days are getting warmer and the nights not too often below 5 degrees C, the vegie patch is coming to life.  Last weekend we harvested just over 3kg of beetroots.  I will be cooking and pickling them for sliced beetroot and beetroot chunks - lovely for summer.  The second planting of beets is also maturing nicely and I have just put in a third round of seeds so we have a great supply.

Our sugar snap peas are also starting to be ready for picking.  They are lovely and sweet and can be used both as shelled peas or in a stir-fry as a snow pea substitute.

The beans are flowering, as are the tomatoes - we have over 40 tomato plants so hopefully we will have a good supply as I want to make tomato pasta sauce, tomato relish and semi-dried tomatoes. 

The mini sweet capsicums are also now starting to colour up - we have a nice dark chocolate one, and several other smaller ones still to colour.  Once I have a chilli bush in place, I will be making plenty more chilli jam and sweet chilli sauce.  I still have some chilli pulp in the freezer so I will make a batch to use that up.

We have two cabbages still to harvest, and the next batch are growing well, as are the cauliflowers and broccoli.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the broccoli picks. 

I recently asked my Dad to buy a couple of raspberry plants - I'd like to plant them outside the vegie garden between the boundary fence and the vegie patch fence.  Might encourage Mr Bunny to keep clear of our place for a bit.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Esme's triplets

We have three new additions to our flock.  Esme the cranky one, has finally had her lambs – triplets.  I went down to feed them yesterday afternoon, and on hearing little cries – I saw one, two then three sets of legs wobbling around.  She must have had them earlier in the afternoon – in the rain of course – the little mites were shivering like mad.

Esme and her triplets
I put Esme and crew into the ‘birthing suite’ which is a smaller enclosure with a covered area separate to the rest of the flock.  We think this gives both mum and babies time to bond, recover and get stronger.  Mum gets her own food and water supply so she doesn’t need to compete with all the rest of the gang.  We keep them there for 4-5 days and then release them back into to the group.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Projects around home

Pretty much since we bought the place, we have had it in our minds that we would (a) put a verandah and deck around three sides of the house and (b) possibly extend out from the fourth side of the house.  So following council approval about a month ago, we have been slowly working away on the verandah & deck. Here's the house before anything was started.

First the roof of the undercover area was removed.  Some of this material will be recycled when my greenhouse gets built and the roofing sheets will be used to build a car port onto the side of one of our sheds.  Once this roofed area was removed, it was possible to see what the house looked like originally.  You may be able to see in the middle of the back wall, where the window now is, there was once a door with a small landing with stairs leading down the back.  

Once the roof and posts were gone, holes had to be cut into the concrete to allow for footings and new support posts to be put in.  A local contractor with an augur spent the day with us drilling the holes to the depth specified by council.

Following that, new concrete footings were poured containing the metal stirrups into which the new supports would be bolted.  Some of these supports are 6m in length and made of hardwood so between us, raising, measuring, drilling and bolting these supports is a big job.  The posts have been braced to stop them swaying in the wind. 

So, slowly we move forward.  More to come.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Vegie Patch

Since we arrived here we had a goal to become as self sufficient in our food supplies as possible.  In February we started preparing our vegie garden with four beds which as much as possible, I would use rotational planting in.  The first bed was experimental to see if we had the right soil mix, aspect, water etc. So far, the results have been excellent.  Here are some pics of the construction phase.

We are hopeful that during summer we can ramp up the production and start preserving and freezing our produce.

When I was a kid, my mum had a great vegie garden.  She grew all sorts of produce - my strongest memory of the garden was harvesting potatoes - I felt like a real farmer!
I get another go at the experience now with the wonderful support of Peter.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Finding our Patch

We were doing a lot of looking on the internet for properties in this area, and Peter had avoided looking at this one because the photos weren't of interest to him - they were only of trees.  Conversely these were the pictures that attracted me because the trees reminded me of the house and garden I grew up in.
When I finally got Peter to look at the pictures properly, his interest started to increase.  As a builder he could see a number of issues with the farm house built during the war years.  Nevertheless we both wanted to see it.
We visited on a cold sunny winter's day and although the garden looked sad and neglected, we both liked it straight away.  We agreed the inside was liveable although certainly not to our taste.  Even Billy, our Jack Russell cross was enthusiastic - but then he was always enthusiastic about everything.

The requirements were:  

  • Enough land for us to put our plans into action.
  • Close to town because I wasn't sure I could go from suburbia to isolation in one step.
  • A good aspect  which would allow for verandahs around to catch the sun or shade depending on the season.
  • Some outlook or views.
  • Power, water and a reasonable house, with some outbuildings.
This one had pretty much all that and a reasonable price tag which we were able to negotiate down so we went for it.  Our offer was accepted and it was ours.
Peter moved in right after settlement but I stayed in Brisbane for another month to finish up work and sell my place.  Then I made the move too and became a 'homemaker' was a huge change of pace for me.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Our Animals

Because our block is sloping down to a gully at the boundary, the back paddock is unsafe to mow so we needed to look at getting some four legged mowers.  We were able to buy several Suffolk cross sheep and we started off with seven ewes and one ram.  Three of the ewes were in lamb so it wasn't long before our flock expanded.

We were very excited at the birth of the first set of twins in February.  The second birth was a couple of weeks later, and the male lamb was all black which was brilliant, but unfortunately he only lived for two days.  The third lamb also black, was a female and she has grown so much that she is the same size as the first two who are a month older.

And we have recently welcomed our second pair of twins which now brings our total of 12.  With the winter dry, the flock eats about half a bale of lucerne or oats a day, supplemented by stock feed.  

Once the warmer weather returns, our paddock will have plenty of grass for them, but at the moment it is slim pickings.

We also now have eight chooks who, between them are producing 5-6 eggs per day.  Of course the eggs have those lovely golden yolks that all free range chooks produce.

Unfortunately though, these chooks love to scratch around in my garden and a good number of my agapanthus have suffered at their hands (claws). 

Billy the dog loves to round up the chooks but never hurts them.  He also loves the lambs, licking them through the fence.  They look at him as though thinking "geez you're a weird looking sheep".  Here he is supervising the shearing a couple of months ago.

In the not too distant future we are going to have to make a decision about which sheep to keep and which to sell.  I don't think I can bring myself to eat our own animals - some people say that if you don't kill them yourselves it removes you enough from them, but I don't share that view.  Even the thought of selling one or two is sad to me.