Saturday, 31 March 2012

Fruits of the wild

Last year I was excited to discover that we had wild guava trees growing on our property. Recently I also found a wild persimmon tree as well. And whilst I haven't worked out what to do with the persimmon yet, we have been making guava and almond chutney with the wild guava. Last year was our first attempt and it was awesome.

So, I was delighted to see that all of the rain we have had this year has resulted in a bumper crop.

I worked out yesterday that since 1 January we have had more than 800mm of rain. No wonder the bank behind the house continues to flow (sometimes gush) with water. The soil around here is completely sodden at the moment. But everything is growing and growing and growing (especially the grass)!

Anyway, back to the guava chutney. MOTH and I went and picked about 3kg of fruit today. After peeling and deseeding it, we ended up with 1.5kg of fruit meat. That will make about 5 large bottles of chutney.

Chopped up wild guava ready for MOTH to make chutney
The finished product is perfect with a sharp cheddar and, of course, a chilled glass of Pinot Noir. Whilst 5 bottles will last us nearly a year, I'm still thinking about picking some more fruit to make some more. It's been such a hit with visitors, I might make some up for Christmas pressies or something. (I found another large group of trees the other day that were laden with fruit and there are a heap of trees at Eaton's Crossing of Cedar Creek as well. But given MOTH actually makes the chutney (I'm in charge of prepping the fruit), I will need to check with him first. He is a first rate cook. And as they say, why have a dog and bark yourself?

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Out of little things big things grow - Part II

Thought I'd better pop up a progress report on the seedlings.

Heirloom seedlings at two weeks
They have been growing well, well most of them have. It's a bit hard to ensure that some get enough and some not too much water when you have multiple plant types in the same seedling tray. So, I think I will lose a few.

At three weeks they're starting to thicken up
The lettuce is ready for the garden now (middle tray at the back). I know they look really small but if you leave them any longer they get all spindly and tend to stay that way. Nothing worse than flimsy lettuce!

And the tray at the back is going gangbusters. If I could only remember what it is (it was the only tray I didn't label)... I think it's coriander so will plant it out today as well as see what happens. I must have liked it to have planted so much of it!

Then later today I'm going to start on the tomato plants. I have several varieties that I plant but usually stick to the medium sized ones as the bigger ones tend to split when they are ripening. We grow a lot of tomatoes and they taste soooo much better than any shop variety - especially with chooker mole eggies!

I have also bought a vanilla plant this week online and am going to have a crack at growing vanilla. It's an orchid and grows like a vine. Apparently you have to let it grow about 25 feet before it will flower. Then you have to pollinate it and taaa daaa - vanilla pods! MOTH will love this for his cooking. Hmmm, fresh eggs AND home grown vanilla. I can feel a cake or two coming on.

Anyway, had better get cracking. It's the first weekend in weeks that it hasn't rained so I'm off to poison some grass and weeds. 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Sleep ins are over rated

So it's the eve of our first weekend with no kids, no soccer, no rugby, no appointments, and all I can think of is a sleep in on Saturday morning. We caught up with some friends after work at the local pub (Samford) and had a great steak before we headed home. Fed the animals, watched a bit of TV and went to bed. Aaahhhh, my favourite place in the world - under my big fluffy doona (OK, it was too hot for the doona but you get the picture). Then, a few hours later to add to the ambiance, the rain starts on the tin roof... ahhhhh, look out sleep in here I come.

Fast forward to 7.30am and I peep with one eye to my watch. MOTH must have seen me do it and asked the time. I muttered 7.30 and refused to wake up. He gets up, I doze back to sleep. "There's a donkey on the lawn". (Yeah and I'm swimming in the pool we don't own in my dream). "Guinness is running across the lawn, he's coming up the driveway". Shit, I'm awake and I'm standing up already and putting my glasses on. Thongs on and I head out to WTF is going on. Guinness meets me at the front door, literally. He is freaked out and has red mud all over his nose. But he won't let me touch him, no matter what I do (soothing voice, etc.) but he doesn't want me out of his sight. He is stressed. (This is NOT how I had imagined my sleep in.)

Half an hour, an apple and some chaff and molasses, he's back behind the white tape.

A quick inspection of the fence suggests he was chased out by something through the tape but didn't break it. There were a heap of little donkey hoof marks on the outside of the fence where he has run around randomly and skidded to a holt several times. I have no idea what happened to him but he was freaked out.

He has calmed down now and is in the stockyards with Irwin. MOTH has made me a coffee and I'm now sitting in bed on my laptop. Oh well sleep in, there's always tomorrow...

PS Happy St Pats Day everyone!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Want to start your day on a high? Hug a Donkey

Recently Guinness and Irwin have started hanging around the chook palace every morning when I head out around dawn to let the girls out. They have a 5 acre hillside paddock to graze and can often be not seen for days at a time. I initially thought they were interested in the chooker moles but, it would seem, it’s my enlightening conversation and a hug that attracts them. They have more food than they could possibly ever eat – no matter how hard they try – but they seem to be only interested in a loving hug. BTW ever seen an oval donkey – I’ll try and get a front on photo one day… hilarious FAT OVAL DONKEYS!

Does my bum look big in this? (Irwin)
They just want me to scratch their necks and there’s nothing nicer than being able to unconditionally hug the neck of a trusting donkey that has previously been so traumatised by human contact that it has taken literally years to get to this stage. How more satisfying can a hug be? (In the words of the princess on MKR…) “Yeaaahhhh”.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Full moon and wild dogs

We live along a mountain range that basically goes from Mt Cootha in Brisbane, right up to the Blackall Ranges in the Sunshine Coast and, word is, the wild dogs travel through this area, about 250 dogs in packs of 10 - 20.

My "boyfriends" (according to MOTH) who are brothers aged 89 and 93 have lived on Clear Mountain their whole lives, have a lot of incredibly accurate stories. They still have wild dogs on their place every year (they breed Herefords, aka food source) and those who "help out" regularly around the place shoot the buggers. Their place is less than 1km from our place.

Last week the local fortnightly paper on Friday there was a story warning about a pack of wild dogs in the area.

Last night around 2.40am I heard a noise near the house that I thought was a feral cat. "Great, cat fight", was my first thought. TC (Tough C**t aka Tabby Cat for the kiddies) leapt from the bed and I thought I'd wait for the scrap before donning my superhero cape and rescuing the day (VERY early day). Nothing happened... the Dogues continued to snore louder than MOTH (he was next to me, they were outside on the deck), the donkeys were nowhere to be heard, the chooker moles were tucked away safe in the palace and Moet, of course, was spread across the end of the best as only a princes pussy could be.

Next minute (just before I fell back into a deep sleep) BANG! Dogues were running down the side of the house before they had woken up. Next minute, out the front of the house where the cars are parked near the big gabion wall of C, hell is breaking out. Out I run... (MOTH does not hear a sound - apparently - and continued through it all). Baillie and Roman are going off like pork chops. And there it is, a big fawn brindle wild dog, up on the cleared land, behind the house... not spooked by the torch, my screaming, or the dogs going off. It just stood there. Near my feet was a well mangled marrow bone, far more consumed than my hounds could ever devour. I set them off after it, they responded with zest - the it looked like a couple of trucks chasing a sports car... anyway... Off into the bush they went following the wild dog (of whom they seemed familiar), then I remembered the article in the Village Pump - that's what they do to lure domestics (check) dogs into the bush to the back to kill them. "Bailllieeeeee, Rooomaaaannnnnnn COME!" and OMG - for once in their lives - they did. Very happy with their accomplishment, albeit symbolic. Anyway, they peeed and pooed on everything nearby to confirm their turf and were happy to come back to bed, gate closed behind them. Until... about 2 hours later (shitheads) they started up barking again. I had heard the donkeys snorting and stomping in their stockyard below our bedroom, leading up to this but they can fend for themselves so disregarded it. The wild dog was obviously still around. By 5am I'd had enough of the whining and barking (MOTH was still asleep) and just let them out... sleep depravation is a nasty thing and I have to say, I've had a shit of a week so far.

Woke up at 6am, dogues snoring (again), no wild dogs in site, my dogs have marked (nuggets included) the greater perimeter of the house area and BUGGER, it was time to go to work.

Made it through the day, and tonite the dogues are grounded tonite!

Local word is the packs of wild dogs spend about 10 - 14 days in one spot them move up and down the mountain ranges. So, these guys are only a few more days here (hopefull).

I love a full moon...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Out of little things, big things grow...

I've been growing veges from heirloom seedlings for a few years now and find it one of the most satisfying things I do. From planting out the seeds...

I care for them (bringing them inside nightly to stop the critters from cleaning them out, from their custom built seedling table (thanks MOTH and little MOTH). Once they get big enough, they then head to the garden and end up in our tummies. I try not to use pesticides where I can help it but some days we have plagues of things, including a rogue bandicoot every so often. MOTH recently made me some spray from old coffee grindings that I will try soon. 

The above photo is one of our vege/herb gardens. This one has 4 stone edged garden beds that are fenced to keep the chooker moles out. They make a hell of a mess when they get in there but they are obviously having a great time!

The paths around the stone edged beds are based with deco to minimise weeds and makes it nice to walk on and helps with drainage when there are excessive rains (like right now... we've just received a storm alert on my mobile and they are expecting up to 200mm tonite - not good).

We also have another vege patch that lines the front of the downstairs area. I had tomatoes in that one until today. They'd come to the end of their life so out they came... a whole trailer load full. MOTH bought me a trailer for Christmas - best present ever - and I use it every weekend. I wore the last one one. This one is kept under cover and cared for like a new car. Anyway, a top up for the garden bed of sugar cane mulch (again, trailer full) once the tomato plants had been transferred to the compost bin (another construction by MOTH - very impressive) and this bed will be ready for plating about the same time the seedlings will be ready for transferring... perfect!

Both vege garden areas have automated sprinkler systems to ensure plenty of water - not that that is a problem at the moment. We're on tank water so it's not problem, with 80,000 litres available at our disposal.

I do collect seeds from my plants and then replant them the next season. Works really well with high volume items like coriander and rocket. I usually plant them every month so that we have an ongoing supply. MOTH is an awesome cook and we use an obscene amount of herbs, nearly all that we grow ourselves. Using herbs such as rosemary as a hedge for the rose garden (minimising bugs) works really well and the guys at work love it when I bring in a bucket of hedge trimmings ;o)

One of the other ways we grow and develop our gardens, is the big planter that sits on the deck, just off the kitchen. When we find something that we really like, or have some leftover, say, ginger, we pop in in the seedling mix and see what happens. It's always interesting what comes up. Here's what it looks like today:

There's a tomato, some ginger, lemongrass and some other stuff that I haven't identified yet.

Anyway, must go... lamb shanks need checking...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Dawn on the mountain

I woke up this morning just on dawn and this is the view from our front deck, out over the valley, towards the ocean. If you look really closely, you can see Moreton Island on the horizon... simply stunning!