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

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

FRIENDS AND SILVER LININGS

As 2016 draws to a close, I am very happy to say goodbye to it, as the last few weeks have been a nightmare.  On the 3rd of December Peter was involved in a serious car crash and was taken to the intensive care unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane where he remains to date in a general ward.

He received bruising to the spleen, 9 broken ribs, severe body bruising, and most worrying of all, bruising to the brain.  Thankfully the spleen, ribs and body bruising are righting themselves, and the focus is now on the brain.  He will need brain injury rehab, and I'm told he is in the best hospital to receive that.  No doubt he will need physical rehab as well, to get his body back in action, but the primary concern is what damage may have occurred as a result of the head knock.  Only time will clarify this uncertainty.

The silver lining, if there can ever be one from an event like this, is that friends, old and new have been so supportive and have rallied around from every direction.  Chel from goinggreyandslightlygreen has been in touch almost every day, and other members of our forum family at simplelivingforums.com have sent cards, hampers, monetary gifts and an overwhelming number of messages of love, prayers, positive thoughts and support.

Yesterday two of Peter's friends came out and cut up a big branch that had snapped off one of our trees in a storm that happened on the day of the crash.  While they were here, they also drenched our sheep and set up our new chicken plucker machine for use later in the day when another friend and her husband came over to process 19 meat chickens with me.  Thank you so much Steve and Scotty; and thank you Sarah and Adam.  It is a weight off my mind to have those birds sorted.

At present I'm splitting my time between here and Brisbane and our neighbours have been feeding the animals in my absence.  It is so reassuring to know that the critters are being cared for. 

I have so much to think about and organise and sort out, my mind just spins sometimes.  But I can say hand on heart, that my friends are getting me through this.  So, thank you.

 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Weekly Update

It has been a long time since I posted here, for two reasons, so many things needing attention and also so many things needing attention. 😉  Perhaps time to update some of the things that have happened around here.

In no particular order then:

We bought two more Wessex Saddleback piglets (males); these will be bred with the two females we acquired in August.  Those two females along with the three Landrace breeders have grown significantly and now live in a large enclosure with the two newbies next door.  

Remember these girls back in August?
 
These five (including the two above) are now close to six months old



 One newbie decided it might be interesting to go under the dividing fence and check out the neighbours, but when I found him, he looked like he'd been through a chaff cutter.  He had scratches all over him and his bung eye (an early injury before we got him) had opened up again. All in all, he looked pretty sore and sorry for himself.  I was able to hold him while he had a drink and then I lifted him back over the fence into his own pen where his less adventurous buddy was waiting for him.  The fact that I could handle him without any struggling on his part told me he was not in a good way.  He didn't eat or drink that afternoon, but the next morning he was up, although a little wobbly, and had started eating again.  I gave him a blast with the antiseptic spray to keep the flies away from his scratches and eye, and he's back to normal.

 
The two 'newbies' - the escapee in front
Our meat chickens are growing well, we have both groups outside in enclosures now which they seem to really enjoy.  They are scratching around, can stand normally and are behaving like normal chooks, which gives me real satisfaction.  We have ordered a "chicken plucker" and expect to receive it around the time these guys are ready for processing.  So 20 chickens in the freezer.
One half of the meat chicken flock
We had a good lambing season, with seven drops including one set of twins.  The dorper breed is clearly dominant so "Rammie" who was on loan from our neighbours certainly did his job, quickly and effectively.  The only issue we have had is three of the group now known as the Three Musketeers have been very creative as escapees.  Several times every day for the past month they would find a way out of the sheep paddock and into the house yard where they would stand on the opposite side of the fence to their mums bleating plaintively.  They (and we) had a new routine of letting them back in only to look in an hour's time to see them out again.
Enjoying a bale of barley hay
We are about to buy another seven sheep, most of which are ewes in lamb.  So we are heading for our target 40 head.

The stone fruit situation is precarious I have to say; our beautiful apricot tree which last year gave us over 15kg of fruit has sadly yielded precisely nothing.  The fruit formed perfectly, and was starting to increase in size when we were hit with a hot spell and then things went all kinds of wrong.  First the fruit fly got to them, and then the fruit bats followed up.  I picked what I could, most of which were still very small but every single fruit was either stung and grubbed up or bitten by the bats.  Good thing we have pigs was the only positive I could take out of it.

Our younger fruit trees are battling on against the heat and wind, peaches, plums, currants and berries are starting to form.  I'll be netting these to try and salvage some pride this summer.

Speaking of wind, we finally have a new windmill.  Living here has certainly taught me one thing - patience - although I am not a good student of it.  When our windmill blew down in July, we were very grateful to receive a payout from our insurance company in order to have the thing replaced.  Unfortunately the contractor under quoted and then refused to honour the price so we had to get resourceful.  Our ever helpful neighbours spotted a windmill stand (minus head) in a nearby town so a deal was done to acquire it.  Of course then we had quite a wet spring so it was a wait until the ground dried out enough for a truck and crane to move it to our place.  We ordered a new head which has now been fitted to the 2nd hand stand and all that remains is for a few pipes and hoses to be replaced.  We've had to buy in water twice so I guess it could have been worse.

There's plenty of other stuff to report on, but if everyone can wake up now from their boredom slumber that would be nice.  Promise I'll be more diligent in updating this blog from now on.

Cheers for now, Barb.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Girl Pigs

So two of our girl pigs have arrived today.  Meet Marguerite (left) and Priscilla (right).  They and two other females and two boars will make up our foundation breeding group.  They are being housed in one of our chook tractors until they are familiar with us and their new surroundings.  They seem to have settled right in, eating and drinking quite happily and enjoying the afternoon sunshine.


I'm looking forward to getting them used to me so I can go in and give them a scratch and some treats.  Our dog Jessie, is a real Mum, she's taken up residence beside them and watches over them. They seem to like her, perhaps because like them, she has dark colouring.


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

WINDMILL UPDATE

Good news, our insurer has agreed to REPLACE the windmill.  We had thought it may be been possible to repair but when the windmill man came he didn't agree.  So the money will be in the bank account tonight and we can go ahead and organise the work to be done.

I had booked 13,000 litres of water to be delivered today so we are now back to a comfortable level; things were getting drastically low.

Elsewhere we are in the process of buying some pigs; one male and two females.  They need to be weaned and whatever else has to happen and we expect to pick them up from the breeders in about 2 months.

 So another learning curve for us.Some happy snaps we took when we were at the breeders last weekend.  Stay tuned! Oink Oink!

One of the little bubbas


They make good cultivators

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Windmill crashed

A long hiatus I know, I just lost the motivation for a lot of things the last few months.  Also I'm mucking about with the page layout and appearance, so apologies for any weirdness. Anyway here we are again.

There have been a few changes and events here since March but the most recent and perhaps mostly impacting on our daily life: our windmill blew over.  I know, not what you would expect right?  It was there Saturday evening and not there (well not upright anyway) on Sunday morning. We knew it was windy, but there must have be some pretty fierce gusts for this to happen.

IMG_20160717_114138
It does look sad 


So the insurance assessor has been and scratched his head a bit and then said they will get it repaired.  We just don't know how long it will take at the minute.  The windmill is a pretty important piece of infrastructure here as it supplies the house, the garden and the stock with water.  As we have not had much rain out of the various "weather events" that the east coast of Australia has experienced, we are being very careful with water usage.

Fingers crossed that things are back right again in the near future.



Monday, 7 March 2016

VEGETABLE GARDEN CLEAN UP

Yesterday we pulled up the last of the tomato plants still carrying fruit and hung them up in the undercover area to ripen.  We pulled off the last of the cucumbers and zucchini and dug up a basil plant and some borage plants for relocation.

Then our farm workers moved in.


The girls and guys were watching intently as we prepared the area for their occupation, fencing off areas we didn't want their intervention - ie the herb bed or the rhubarb area.  They knew something was up and once I got around to opening the gate, they were all lined up in a orderly fashion.


Once in, they got right to work.  The bed above held the tomatoes and girls were right into the upturned sods where the plants had been pulled out.

 
Here are the tomato plants plus other odds and ends to be put away.  We left the shade cloth tunnel in place for the chooks' comfort during sunny days.  

My potted lime tree is doing very well, having put on about 5" of growth.  I hope that its position close to the house will protect it from winter frosts.  The lime is situated next to the rogue volunteer Jap pumpkin which will yield us 6 or 7 fruit in due course.


These are the borage plants we lifted sitting in pots with clods around their roots.  


They don't look like happy campers today so I'll have to repot them into potting mix and keep the water up to them.  I think I'll cut off the outer leaves too.  I really have no idea if they transplant well like this or not, but its worth giving it a try for free plants.

In other news, Jessie has had her double cruciate ligament replacement and is resting happily at the vet.  I have been visiting her every couple of days and today she was quite animated to see me.  She was wearing one of those cone things on her head - like this.  Actually this is almost her except she has a docked tail, being a Smithfield cattle dog.  Hopefully she'll be a slim jim like this one when she comes home, the vet has her on a strict diet.  Her surgery wounds are healing well and they are starting to get her to put weight on her hind legs and doing physio now.


Peter has built a ramp for her to walk up as stairs will be problematic for some time.  Others family members will also be able to use the ramp if required.  We all really miss Jessie and are so looking forward to her coming home soon.

Cheers,
Barb





 




Sunday, 28 February 2016

Electronics and consumables

We recently bought a new computer printer after our previous one 'carked' it as my Dad would say.  Isn't it marvellous how inexpensive these items have become - that is until you want to replace an ink cartridge or similar consumable.

The printer we bought was from memory in the range of $35, and the ink I just bought online was $52 odd for one black and one colour.  I forgot to look on E bay of course, so I may be able to get that number down a bit lower.  Still.

The most disappointing thing of all is the packaging involved.  Just look at this for two little cartridges - humm.



























I am still processing tomatoes, I estimate one more picking and that should call it done.  I have run out of pasta sauce bottles and am now freezing the product in takeaway containers.  

Last Friday was our 5th wedding anniversary and we took the opportunity of visiting the Rudd's Pub in a nearby town for dinner.  Ironically, we won the R.F.S. raffle for which the prize was a meat tray - clearly something we already have heap of.  We didn't think until too late to donate the meat tray back for them to re-raffle as we were too stunned at winning anything.  Anyway a lovely selection came home with us.

Our Jessie goes into surgery on Tuesday for a double cruciate ligament replacement on her hind legs.  She did one early last week and then the other two days later.  The good folks at Warwick Vet Clinic have been excellent, having only a week ago done surgery on her ear following her cracking the cartilage and forming a haematoma there.  She still has what I call a kitchen sponge stitched onto her ear to prevent the haematoma from reforming.  So, the stitches will come out of her ear and will go into both her hind legs.  I pray at it all goes well and she recovers, with the inevitable arthritis to follow.  She will need to board at the house of one of the vets as we have stairs and I can't manage to carry her down, as she's too heavy for me.  I tried last week, and we both ended up on the ground so I can't risk it.
Our beautiful girl Jessie


The weather has taken a lovely turn this weekend.  The days, while still warm, are better than the last couple of weeks, there seems to be a hint of Autumn in the air in the early mornings and the nights are so much better for sleeping now.  No rain however, we could do with some. 

Cheers, Barb.





Friday, 19 February 2016

STORMY WEATHER

As the brilliant Billie Holiday sings -
"Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather
Since my man and I ain't together,
Keeps rainin' all of the time

Oh, yeah
Life is bare, gloom and mis'ry everywhere
Stormy weather
And I just can't get my poorself together,
I'm weary all the time
So weary all the time
When he went away the blues walked in and met me.
Oh, yeah
If he stays away old rockin' chair will get me.

All I do is pray the Lord above will let me walk in the sun once more.
I can't go on, can't go on, can't go on, ev'ry thing I had is gone
Stormy weather

Since my man and I ain't together,
Keeps rainin' all the time"




While the above photos show severe looking weather, we fortunately received only some wind and much lovely rain.  It has been so hot and dry again recently, as you can see much of the green has disappeared from the house yard.

I've just had four days at the Sunshine Coast and the heat and humidity there nearly drove me around the twist.  The 3+ hour drive home today in my non-airconditioned little red caboose was also quite trying.  Once I got up over the Great Dividing Range through Cunningham's Gap though,  the relief was immediate and noticeable; still hot but the humidity was trapped on the eastern side of the range and I was clear of it.

So the frogs are singing their song (perhaps a rendition of Stormy Weather), the tanks are filling and I can hear the grass growing, I'm happily at home again.

Cheers, Barb.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Australia Day Activities

Do you say 'Happy Australia Day'? I don't know.  Anyway we're just pottering around today doing Aussie things.  Hubby is 'organising' his shed - I hope to be able to find him in there soon for lunch.  Me - I've been making pickled beetroot.

Hubby loves beetroot any time of the year so I usually try to get two crops through to ensure we have enough goodness for him.  I'm not overly partial (I know, un-Australian isn't it?) but recently I have discovered the golden beetroots.  What a treasure they are! So sweet and not as 'earthy' as the red ones.  So this season I planted the Detroit Red, Golden, and Choggia.  Of these the Golden was actually the most successful.


Source

I used the pressure cooker which saved a bit of time.  Here are they are ready for cooking.


And here they are complete in their jars.  I just love the softly coloured ones, some sliced, some whole and some chunked.


I know the colour will weird out Hubby and the kids, but that's part of the attraction!  Ha ha, evil me.

However, note to self:  put the rubber rings on the Fowler Vacola jars before you fill the jars.  Otherwise there is bound to be an incident. 



Lucky I was in my old working kit.

Cheers,
Barb




Monday, 25 January 2016

Food Gardens January 2016 Pt 2


So to the veg garden now.  This will be the last season that we have the wide beds (1.5m wide and 4m long).  Being a short person, I find it difficult to reach into the bed to weed, water or pick veg without actually falling into the bed.  Hubby won't enter into the Mandala garden concept, so we borrowed some ideas from Wendy's blog and decided to make future beds much narrower and longer. We certainly have the space and with a bit of work it should be do-able.  We'll probable start doing this as the weather cools down.


One aspect of gardening here on the Darling Downs I am still adjusting to is the much shorter and sharper growing season.  In Boonah the climate is more sub-tropical where as here it is classified as temperate.  Obviously with 35C+ days it is more than temperate in summer but certainly things do take longer to get going.


Anyway,  here are some pics of the veg garden as it is now.  These are the cucumbers I thought I had lost when I planted them out.  I have a bad habit of leaving things in punnets for too long and then planting them out when they are leggy and don't look like surviving.  However the cucumbers are enjoying the heat and I have picked those ones hanging down already. I put them on the slanted trellis to make them easier to pick.


I have planted several varieties of tomato - San Marzano, Moneymaker, Rouge de Marmande and Grosse Lisse to see which grows best here.  We  use a lot of tomatoes to make passata each year.  Its a crazy jumble of tomato plants under the shadecloth, next year I plan to have a trellis type of set up in the middle of the bed, with plants either side so they are easier to tie off.  

Its all a mad jumble in here


Some nice sized fruit on


You wouldn't believe it but in this bed we had beetroot growing.  You can tell the grass gets away from me in summer can't you.  Anyway, we ended up with a good bucket of beets, most of which will be pickled as slices, chunks and baby beets.  Both this bed and the tomato bed above will be halved in width and extended in length for next summer's growing season.

To finish off, just some random shots from around the place. 


My one elderberry sapling.  I'm hoping to plant this beside the greenhouse so I can enjoy its shade on a summer's afternoon.  Also to the right is a sage plant from DTE's Dottie and lemon balm from a friend on the Granite Belt.    Don't you love the rustic plant stand?

Here are two pots of turmeric that I thought had gone to heaven, but with the recent hot and wet weather up they came.  I think I'll keep them in the greenhouse.


Also from my Granite Belt friend, some strawberries.  I'll have to think hard where to put these.




And from my good friend Nanna Chel some Bishop's Crown Peppers which are described on the net as 'satisfyingly spicy' as well as tangy sweet and fruity.  It sounds like they will work well for a sweet chilli sauce or a chutney of some description.  Thank you Chel.  Since I took these pics they are starting to change colour a little.

My comfrey plants mounting a global takeover


Thank you for having a look around the garden with me.  

Cheers,
Barb 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Hot

Too hot to blog today!


Actually that reminds me, that glass contains a groovy ice cube. Its an idea I got from my Mum who got it from goodness knows where.  The idea is you get a skinny wedge of lemon, orange, lime or whatever fruit you like, some mint or lemon balm or similar and put all that into the base of a muffin tin then you put in about 1cm of water and freeze it.  You end up with a dozen or so of these...


Which are great as they are bigger than a normal ice cube and last a bit longer (not much longer today though).  Keeps your water or juice or whatever fresher.

So cheers,
Barb

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Food Gardens January 2016 Pt 1

With the hot days we are experiencing at the moment, I am out watering most mornings.  Today I did the fruit trees.  I took some snaps of things as I went along.

I have planted vegies such as pumpkins among the fruit trees so they may ramble around without taking up space in the vegie patch itself.  These are butternut pumpkins slowly coming along.  



and Golden Nugget pumpkins which are a new one for me. They are such cuteness but I doubt how much flesh will be inside them.


I have also planted Jap pumpkins but they have only just started to flower.  And what is with that - all male flowers? I have noticed this on all my curcurbits that the male and female flowers are rarely coming on at the same time this year.  Makes for a small harvest I think  however I am hand pollinating wherever I can.

Of course the volunteer plants are always the most vigorous aren't they?  This one is growing just outside the entertainment area.  Hopefully we'll have some pumpkins from it as with any luck it should be a Jap.  My geraniums are putting on a good show.  These were all from Boonah cuttings and bits I've knocked off elsewhere (ahem).  The stand is made from an old pine bed from the School Peter works at.  His team know that we'll take most things being tossed out so he often comes to his ute at going home time to find all sorts of odds and ends on there.


This little sugarbaby watermelon is the only one for now. We have a native bee hive but it is at the front of the house so we'd like to split it and bring one half down the back to help with pollination.  That awful foxtail grass at the front is everywhere at this time of year.


The fruit trees have been in the ground for just on six months and I am very happy with their growth.  Their test will come after their first winter and hopefully a bountiful spring and summer to follow.  This is my view to the west framed by one of the plum trees.



The berry plants are doing fairly well.  We have one raspberry that we brought along from Boonah and that one is growing rapidly and has fruit coming on.


The other berries we bought from Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery last winter and the growth is good but of course no fruit in their first season.  I have tried to select varieties with different fruiting times so we have a longer berry season.  

I was gifted some strawberry plants a couple of months ago but I'm not quite sure yet where to plant them.  If I put them in down in the fruit tree area I'm sure the birds will get them so I'm thinking of planting them nearer the house in a fantastic old concrete 3 bay laundry trough we were given.  It is situated outside the soon to be completed greenhouse so I can keep an eye on them.  In the meantime, they are happily biding their time in pots.


That's it for today.  I will show you the vegie garden next time.  Please excuse the lame blog title, I'm messing about with the design and I'm not happy with anything so far.

Cheers,
Barb












Monday, 4 January 2016

Resumption of normal service (well sort of)

Happy new year to you!  Are we refreshed, bright eyed and raring to go? Not here - the summer cold has struck and I'm stuffed up and fresh out of voice.  Which is a problem because I am the sole entertainer for a 10 year old girl for a couple of days until we return her to her Dad.

So far she has swum in the pool - that was the real reason we got it Lynda ;)  She has bounced on the trampoline, she has fed the chooks and sheep and collected eggs.  In the evenings and whenever else she can talk us into it we have played countless Uno tournaments.  She is disgusted that she has yet to win such a tournament.


New Year's Eve was uneventful until she had a "technicolour yawn" at 10 minutes to 12 and her poor Dad had to clean it all up.  

Right now she is diligently "sewing" if you call me threading the needle, tying the knots, cutting the thread etc sewing. Anyway, she's enjoying it and saying that she's getting pretty good at it now.

Love the ratty hair following the swimming pool.

The item she's sewing is a gingerbread man which is part of a kit from Aldi that Santa brought her.

After she gets bored with the sewing we'll settle down for a movie afternoon with some choccie that she bought for me because I was sick.

Anyway, my thread cutting skills are being called for.  

Cheers, 
Barb