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

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

So this is Christmas

Christmas means different things to different people, and a couple of things stand out in my mind: good - the call of the storm bird and frogs on the verandah at night, not so good - missing those loved ones no longer with us.  You do the best you can in those circumstances and at last the Christmas spirit has started to filter into me.

Its been a couple of busy weeks.  We had a kill done (sorry if that offends anyone but that's just how it is here) - one beef and two sheep which resulted in 165kg of meat to be bagged, labeled, and frozen.  Our price per kg was $1.70 which is brilliant.  Our freezers are overflowing now.  I requested a lot of cuts be left on the bone so I'm looking forward to winter for osso buco, lamb shanks, ribs and other slow cooked meals.

Last week we had the electricians in to install ceiling fans in all our rooms and put in some additional power points. We've already been loving the fans with some quite hot days again this week.  I also had a couple of days in Brisbane and then a lovely visit with some friends in Toowoomba for coffee.

Yesterday was my last day of Christmas shopping, and I was surprised how uncrowded it was in Warwick thank goodness. As the onslaught of arrivals begins tomorrow I still have a heap of stuff to do today so hopefully it won't be too hot.

We had a plumbing emergency at our Boonah house - the tenant reported what she thought was a septic tank problem but in fact turned out to be an underground water leak.  Our Boonah plumber was able to go there first thing Monday and got it sorted but he couldn't understand why the tenant took so long to report it as it had been leaking for many months.  Looks like a big water bill heading our way - joy.

On the plus side our entertainment area is almost ready now.  The guttering is on, the lattice back in place, and I sewed up 90% shade cloth as shade blinds which make a huge difference against the afternoon sun. Peter is just in the process of installing the pulleys and ropes so we can raise and lower them as needed.  We'll put other fixed shade cloth over the latticed area to reduce wind and sun as well.

Our ride-on mower "carked it" last week so Peter will borrow a pushie from work so I can whizz around the area immediately around the house with it.  The further afield areas will have to wait until the required part comes in.  

The fridges and freezers are chocker and running full tilt; the menu is ready to go, the only components outstanding - prawns will be picked up Christmas Eve; drinks are coming via the kids; everyone is bring something, so dare I say it - I think we are ready.

So Noel my friends - have a happy, safe, blessed and delightful Christmas.  See you on the other side!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Can't leave it alone

It was like this.

Now its like this.

And its not finished yet.  Still have to put back the lattice and I have to sew some shadecloth blinds.  However I have to say it is very cool there even in the middle of the day and it helps keep the house cooler as well.  There's something to be said for never being satisfied I suppose.

Cheers, Friends.  Barb.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Stone Fruit Season

I was very fortunate today in that hubby was down Stanthorpe way and picked me up some second grade cherries for jamming.

When he brought them home I had a taste and the flavour and texture of them was anything but second grade.

Just look at those sweeties!  The idea was to make cherry jam, but I will now have to whistle while I process these to avoid the quantity whittling away to nothing.

Through hubby's work we will also get some plums again and I have asked one of his workmates to pick me up a carton of mixed stonefruit (nectarines, peaches and apricots) for $13 when he goes through Stanthorpe again tomorrow.

I feel fortunate to live so close to the Granite Belt that I can enjoy these gorgeous fruits in season at such a reasonable price.  

Monday, 23 November 2015

Around here, some pics 22/11/15

I took some pictures yesterday afternoon just before a storm blew in.

Our pool is now set up for the hot days ahead, great for sitting in with a drink in hand.

Some floral colour.

The sunflowers are growing alongside the chook yard, if they are the sunflower seed type, I'll throw the head in for the chooks when its ready.

The agapanthus survived the winter frosts and are now starting to flower.

Lovely pink oleander - I want to plant more of these.  The picture is a bit blurred due to the wind from the incoming storm.

Some over-exposed begonias; once my greenhouse is built I think these will grow a lot better.  Still they are doing well for where they are, I did cut them back in winter so they are looking fuller in leaf now.

The storms rumbled for a couple of hours but after all the bluff and bluster, we only had about 1mm of rain.  Hopefully others in the region had better.

Cheers Barb.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

In the Garden 22/11/15

I've spent a couple of hours this morning picking plantain leaves for my friend and massage therapist who uses it when making her pain relief balms.


I ended up with 2.5kg of the leaves which I will give to her tomorrow.  Mind you, she might need to use some of that balm on me as bending over to pick the leaves found some less-used muscles!

No, its not that type of grass

We have access to a larger cultivator to extend our vegetable garden beds.  We're moving from three 1.5m x 3m beds to a longer narrower form.  I hope this will improve access for me as I'm a shortie.

Cheers Barb

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Around here.. 19/11/2015

Things have been ticking over here pretty quickly, the days fly by and at the end of the week I look back and wonder where the time went.

So around here at the moment we have:

A lovely flowering gum right near the house that not only has a gorgeous perfume, but also attracts all manner of birds enjoying the nectar.

Our first batch of apricot jam for this season.  Half of this is already gone, given to friends and family.  We will savour the rest.  I still have several kilos of frozen fruit which I intend to make into apricot chutney, some more jam and dried apricots.

My step son needed his chest of drawers back so we were in want of clothes storage for visitors in our spare room.  We picked up this old girl for $10 from a local Facebook buy sell swap page.  She has that lovely old house smell and feel, having come from such an old house in a nearby town.  She will soon receive some TLC (there is a piece of veneer missing bottom right of the door) and a few coats of paint.  I think the wall space may be a good spot for a mirror as well.  That is my dog Billy who can't be left out of anything.

My garlic drying on the verandah.  Not a huge number this year as I bought the bulbs from a garlic grower but I will endeavour to hold onto some cloves so I use them to replant next year.  And, yes that's my gardening hat, the damage resulting from mowing under tree branches.  I now wear it backwards and once the top comes off completely it will go into the compost.

Today I will be, as my darling Mum says "battening down the hatches, its going to be a scorcher!"  Keep cool friends xxx.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Family Weekend

Afternoon all, I'm in recovery mode here today.  We had a family get together here over the weekend to celebrate a joint birthday.  It gave us the opportunity to christen our new entertainment area and I have to say we were all pretty happy with it.  My hubby and Dad worked very hard outside to put up a tarp over the area so we wouldn't get sunned or rained on.  Shade cloth was put up around the lattice to help buffer the ever present wind.

We got our outdoor setting out of the shed and put back together - it was like welcoming home an old friend.  It is an 8 seater so just enough space for us all.  Then the boys put up a nice big fluoro and fairy lights as well as fitted out our BBQ with a rotisserie for the dinner to be cooked.

Here is the set up from ground level.  That box in the background near the lattice is our smoker/pizza oven.  Check out the enormous bug zapper on the plant stand to the right.  

The next pic shows the setup from on the verandah.  That's the tarp above and the 'cosy corner' with the shade clothed lattice.  It is amazing how much of the wind is cut out using this combination.

Later on, as the weather warms up further we will move the table back to the left and our pool.  Most years we buy one of these pools which lasts us the summer before it get used as a rainproof cover for something.   They come complete with pump and filters etc.  They are perfect for sitting in with a cool drink on a hot afternoon and our granddaughter loves it when she visits us.    
 10ft Fast Set Pool Set

Hubby's kids (30 and 25)  spent a good deal of time on Saturday night planning their Christmas cooking extravaganza.  They seem to love coming out here and getting creative in the kitchen; most of the time I evacuate and do something to entertain myself and then roll up when its time to eat.  Things always taste better when you haven't had to cook them yourself I reckon.

We had roast chooks and a shoulder of pork done on the rotisserie which was fantastic; and potato bake, pasta bake, roasted mixed vegies including some of my own carrots (hurrah success!).  For dessert we had Outback Tania's Apple Roly Poly and cheesecake followed by a white chocolate mud birthday cake.

A couple of my carrots that appear to be 'in lurve'.

So, I'm slogging my way through Mt Washmore and otherwise taking it slow today.  Hope everyone else is having an easy day too.

Cheers, Barb.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

More bricks...

Some more bricks fell into our laps yesterday so this morning we knocked off the last few rows of paving.  The crusher dust is being swept into the holes now and the edging will be 'haunched up' with concrete to prevent movement.  The wooden things in the lower RHS of the pic are plant stands made from old bed heads.

On another note, we have thus far picked over 13 kg of apricots from our two old trees this week.  This fruit has the most luscious taste when jammed so that will be its fate.  

This is the 9kg we picked this morning.  The fragrance in the kitchen is beautiful.  

We have a family get together here next weekend so lots more to do.

Cheers, Barb

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

New paved outdoor area

Over the recent weekend we were busy creating an outdoor entertaining area which we anticipate will be in high demand  over the coming months.  We needed something temporary and cheap to create; temporary because eventually this area will be largely covered by a deck attached to our extended home and cheap because we are still minding our pennies.

We had a couple of pallets of bricks which Hubby had picked up on a job a few years ago.  Our outlays were the hire of equipment (Kanga and whacker packer) and 7 cubic metres of crusher dust to bed and sweep into the laid bricks.

This is what Saturday and Sunday looked like

Leveling out the site

Laying the crusher dust base
End of Saturday
After packing down

Ready for happy hour on Sunday

If you look closely you will see some bare crusher dust at the end of the paved area.  Bah! ran out of bricks didn't we!  Hubby is trying to source some similar bricks locally and the job will be finished. My job is to sweep that excess crusher dust into the holes on the other side of the table, there will be some more shoveling involved.

Looking back to the BBQ and smoker/pizza oven

The BBQ and smoker/pizza oven will be positioned to the RHS of the above pic with lattice panels behind them.  As this area receives full sun most of the day, we will put up a shade sale (which is packed away somewhere in the shed)  That little shed behind is my gardening shed.  It will go once the extension starts.  The shed structure in the background is an old cattle stable that we are using for, yes more storage.  

The two days which were very hot and dry really gave us all a workout, luckily I had a massage booked for Monday which was something to look forward to.  Certainly my clothes are feeling looser, so I must have lost a couple of kilos in fluid or something.  

I'll post some final pics once we have completed the project.  So far, we're very happy with it.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Weekend Wrap

This long weekend was a great opportunity to get several jobs done around the garden and house, despite the heat.

Hubby completed the wood locker where we will store the wood for our wood stove.  I have a strong aversion to snakes who seem to like wood piles so I asked that the wood be stored up off the ground.  This locker was built entirely out of recycled items so it was a cheap build.  It should store two trailer loads of cut wood with room for a bin at one end for kindling and smaller pieces.  We will probably buy a couple of loads of cut wood now that summer is here, hopefully for a cheaper price than in winter.  This past winter we didn't need to buy any wood at all as we had brought a lot of timber/wood with us from Boonah including old house stumps which were absolutely brilliant burners.

I spent a few hours in the paddock picking up cow manure from the cattle we are agisting on our place for our neighbours.  We have made an arrangement with them to run their 11 beasts on our place in exchange for them buying and growing up a beast for us for slaughter later in the year.  We will pay for the butchering but the meat will otherwise be free.  

Anyway, I see the manure as a bonus, being a free fertiliser or soil conditioner.  Earlier in the year we bought a ute load pf composted manure from a local dairy for $25 which was great, but it does become water repellent after a while so making my own for a low cost was a good alternative.  You need to select the older drier pads and put them through a mulcher for a nice even mix.

So this:

plus this:

equals this:

This will be incorporated into existing and new garden beds as a soil conditioner, along with home made compost.  One compost bin is full and cooking and a second one is now being filled so hopefully in a month or two we will have plenty of compost again.  My last 'brew' turned out well and was used up in the no dig beds.  

We have made the decision to extend our existing vegetable beds and ramp up our food production, firstly for ourselves but I'm also investigating options for earning an income from our property in the form of meat, eggs, vegetables and fruit.  

Hubby also built a bird house in the hope that some of the gorgeous colourful parrots take up residence.  At the moment they nest in a hollow corner fence post which is right next to the fruit tree area and I'm always concerned about disturbing them when I'm working there.  Sadly we don't have a great number of trees on our property, and we really want to attract a wide variety of birds (other than crows and galahs) so I'm growing wattles, fodder trees and flowering shrubs for that purpose.

In the meantime,  they have another option:

Hope everyone has had a good long weekend too.  Stay cool and drink lots of water.

Cheers, Barb.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Sewing Projects

Pinch and punch for the first day of the month of my birth.

This last month has been busy at the sewing machine.  I've made curtains for our bedroom and the sewing room.

Terrible picture I know but you get the idea, and no they aren't lined.  I'm not a huge fan of curtains at the best of times, preferring blinds but I had bought this fabric from Ikea for the Boonah house then changed my mind and didn't make the curtains up.  I'm going to put up blinds to block out the hot summer sun so I skipped the lining.  Don't look Mum!  I've got one more bedroom to sew curtains for so I'm not out of the woods yet.

The other little project I completed yesterday was a welcome gift for a friend's new granddaughter.  Fortunately I had pink towelling and flannel on hand so I could put these together for her.

The towelling thing is called a Sunshine Tag Toy.  The flannel blanket is double sided - more for warmer than cooler nights.  Hopefully they will be well received.

When I was in Brisbane recently I went to one of my favourite fabric stores East Coast Fabrics in Lawnton and picked out a few pieces.  The fat quarter family of pinks will become some gifts for a group swap meet I'm attending in the next couple of weeks.  The Christmas print will be napkins for that time of year.  The 'dish' print will become desperately needed pot holders and possibly a hanging hand towel if there's enough.

Today though, I'm have a half inside and half outside day.  I've got watering to do and start up another compost bin.  I planted some seeds yesterday so I have those to worry over - germination rates have been very poor lately.  I'll take some baby lamb snaps as well to share next time.

Cheers, Barb.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Happenings around here

Boy, its been over a month since I last posted.  Slacko!  In my defence though, it has been a bit hectic around here recently.

Last week was my week to visit Brisbane for two days to see my folks and do some badly needed bits and pieces shopping down there.  I needed a new blender/whizzer thingy to make my kale smoothies in the morning; I wanted to buy some fabric, prescriptions needed filling, some clothing items were purchased etc etc.

On the weekend we had the sheep shorn and lice treated so they will be ready for summer.  This gave us a good opportunity to look them over to see who needed to go on a diet and who might be expecting little ones in the near future.  One of the ewes who didn't even look in lamb produced twins the night after shearing and they are the tiniest lambs we have ever had.  Their voices are like squeaks.  There might be another one or two in lamb so we'll keep watching them.  

The smallest lambs we have had to date

Ready for summer
We have had some vehicle dramas - well not us exactly but my step son had taken over one of our utes and when he and his sister were coming up the range to visit us recently the ute decided to give out about half way up.  Of course cars never break down in convenient or safe locations so hubby had to go and give a hand.  There was nothing to be done for the engine so the RACQ were called.  Luckily where the breakdown occurred was within the Boonah response area and the RACQ bloke ran into the Boonah police down in Aratula and they very kindly offered to come lend a hand.  So after some hairy moments, the RACQ towed the ute to the top of the range escorted by the boys in blue after which our mechanic in Boonah showed up with his tilt tray truck to bring the ute to our place here.  It was old home week.

Recently I visited Toowoomba with some friends ahead of the Carnival of Flowers to enjoy some of the colour in the public parks.  We had a great morning complete with morning tea at a local croquet club which was situated within one of the parks we visited.

Glorious spring colour
 We recently bought some pullets from the school hubby works at and they are slowly settling in, although are being bossed around by the old hands.  I give them some special treats every day so they don't miss out on food.  I'm starting to pull out broccoli plants and cabbages that haven't formed properly and giving them to the chooks and don't they love them.
Lower LHS is one of the bossy ones - the rest are of the new girls
I'm seeding up madly at the moment with the weather turning warmer.  We've had 10mm of rain over the past couple of days which was very welcome and the paddocks and yards are greening up.  I'm having trouble with seed germination though which hasn't really been a problem in the past so I'm experimenting with other methods to see if I can improve my germination rate.  Hubby was a little perturbed to see seed trays on the bathroom windowsill though!

My little greenhouse - beetroot ready to plant out on LHS
The veggie garden and fruit area are moving along.  I'm starting to remove the brassicas and will put a chook tractor together to give the girls some fun on the beds.  The no dig bed has been a great success which has inspired me to do another two narrow ones alongside the chookyard and plant things I can toss to the chooks like sunflowers and greens along with some herbs like yarrow, chamomile, coriander, fever-few among others.  Here are some shots from the food producing plants.

Clockwise starting at top left - fig, blossoms on apple tree, grapes, brassica, fennel and garlic patch, blackberry, rhubarb, peas, no-dig brassica bed, plum tree, apple blossom. Centre new no-dig bed beside chookyard.

So, that's a wrap up of news around here.  I hope to post 2-3 times a week now that there's some garden activity, but don't hold me to it!  Cheers, Barb.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Back out into Garden

Well the fruit trees have been planted for a month now and are showing signs of budding etc.  The stone fruit seem to be the fore runners with the berries next and the apples bringing up the rear.  Makes sense given fruiting times.  In anticipation of a predicted rain event (hah!) I have lightly fertilised them all and watered that in.  Don't trust the weather.

The varieties we planted include:
Photos courtesy of Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery

 We also bought two more varieties of raspberry, a youngberry and two double grafted apples.  

Now I am investigating fig tree varieties - its hard to decide, so many varieties have been recommended to me.  And citrus varieties - I'm thinking a couple of lemons, oranges, mandarin, lemonade, lime (climate permitting).

If all this comes off, I'll be one busy person over the next few months.  

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Bits and Pieces

We have had a mish-mash few weeks here, both weather wise and activity wise.  Working in reverse we:

Saw the new movie "Inside Out" review with a 9 yo and her Dad.  All enjoyed it.
Made a rainbow 'non-birthday' cake for said 9 yo.  We have all now had our sugar fix for a while.

Planted the first of our fruit orchard.  Hopefully lots of growth and leaves will spring forth from these sticks in the next couple of months.

Enjoyed our growing sheep flock, especially Uno, who is now an outside sheep, having spent the first month of this life with us inside. 

I had two lovely events to attend recently as well.  The Simple Living Toowoomba group I'm a member of  had a great morning where Rhonda Hetzel from Down to Earth blog was our guest for a cuppa and chat.  We heard Rhonda's simple living story and about her new book.  Afterwards a few of us went to lunch with Rhonda and her husband Hanno.  A great day out for me.

The other event was at Clifton and Surrounds produce swap group of which I am a member.  Every couple of months we get together, this time at Kathy's place in Clifton and catch up for a chat, a meal and swap some produce or useful items.  While it is garden based, we share recipes, advice on plants and animals and a lot of laughs.  Again, a lovely day out.

We had some pretty cold weather as well the last couple of weeks, one day the thermometer didn't get above 9C and there was an icy wind blowing.  That was the day Stanthorpe about an hour south of us got snow.  It was all over the news for a couple of days as it was pretty unusual for Queensland to have snow.   Other than that, there have been some decent frosts.

Things are warming up again now though, and there are flower buds on the apricot trees.
 Bring on Spring I say.