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Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

When I posted about my adventures at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, Claire left me a comment (thanks Claire!) to tell me about the Plants with Bite exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. Pete and I popped in for an explore last week and it’s great!

Entry is free and even though it’s not a huge space, there are oodles of carnivorous plants on display. Including lots of very robust Venus Fly Traps (anyone who has ever tried to grow these at home will tell you how easily they die off)…

Tiny, sticky sundews, with sparkly globules that catch bugs like superglue…

Butterworts and bladderworts, although I didn’t take any photos of the latter…

And the most wonderful array of pitcher plants, both the North American ones that grow on the ground…

…and my all time favourites, these Nepenthes or tropical pitcher plants. Known colloquially as “monkey cups” (as monkeys have been seen drinking rainwater out of them)  the pitchers form from the end of specialised leaves.

Apparently there are 170 different varieties currently known…

The exit is guarded by Audrey II, straight from the theatrical production of Little Shop of Horrors…

I always try to buy something in support when I attend a free exhibition, so I came home with a Gardens magazine and stick-on tattoos, because I’m a child…

I was told the display will be open for at least the first half of this year. It’s based in the Calyx at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney and well worth a visit if you get a chance. Make sure you have a good look at the green wall while you’re there – it’s the largest in Australia!

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Snake Bean Season

We have finally figured out the secret to growing snake beans!

Well, Pete has, at least. They need lots and lots of water. We planted a dozen seeds this year, on the basis that they never all grow…but they did. So now we have a mountain of snake beans, which we’re eating at every meal and freezing for winter…

They’ve been my favourite vegetable since I was a small child, so I’m very happy…

The plants need the solid support of our large homemade A-frame

Here’s what we’re picking on an almost daily basis – hopefully we’ll get another couple of weeks out of this crop…

Our current favourite dish to make with them is Thai Prik Khing, constructed very simply with pork mince and an awesome little tin of paste…

At just $1.19 per tin, I keep a stack of them in the pantry…

Finally, remember our young friend Grace? She was spotted last weekend wandering through the snake bean tunnel. You’ll be pleased to know that she’s still the same shark-suit wearing impromptu ballet performing girl sorceress that she’s always been! ♥

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PS. If anyone is interested in how we made the A-frame, there are detailed instructions in this post

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Snake Beans

It’s possible that we may have gotten a teensy bit carried away planting snake beans this year…

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The initial plants were showing signs of rust virus, so we didn’t weed any of the seedlings out, hoping that some of them would soldier on and survive.

They all survived.

And then they all flowered with these beautiful, orchid-like purple blooms…

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For a couple of weeks, we joyously harvested this many snake beans every day. I’m not complaining, because they’re my all-time most favourite vegetable in the whole world…

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I blanched and froze packets of them in the freezer – enough for ten future family dinners…

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…and we’ve been adding them to every single meal. Here’s my favourite way to prepare them – stir-fried in oyster sauce and garlic…

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Finally, this gorgeous sunflower is growing in amongst the beans – self-sown from fallen chook feed!

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A Very Pleasant Pheasant

Small Man spotted him first, wandering along our street.

This Common Pheasant was very tame and showed no fear whatsoever as he strolled casually up our driveway to the backyard. It was a couple of months ago, when the late autumn sun was still shining, and before the hailstorm battered the garden. His plumage was stunning – you’d think a bird that tasted so good would have evolved less conspicuous colours by now…

We threw him a little chook feed which he obligingly gobbled up, but we couldn’t get much closer without startling him…

He was more than happy to pose for photos…

Such a magnificent, beautiful bird…

I managed to get a close-up of his iridescent head…

After half an hour of observing, we thought we should probably try and capture him, as he was clearly someone’s lost pet. But the minute we got within a metre of him, he opened his wings and flew straight up in the air and onto the neighbour’s roof. And then he was off…

Our pheasant friend hung around for weeks – he discovered a ferny patch of our neighbour Mark’s backyard and made himself a bivouac there. We loved having him around! All the children on the street came out to admire him, many convinced he was a peacock, and the adults would give way to him in their cars as he casually strolled across the road as if he owned it. He wasn’t particularly street smart.

We later discovered that he had escaped from a house around the corner. I suspect he never made it home. A neighbour who works in the local pet store said that a customer had been in asking for “pheasant food”, so we’re all hopeful that he’s been adopted by a loving family. Safe travels lovely bird – thank you for visiting!

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There is an old Chinese curse…”May you live in interesting times”. (Actually, it’s apocryphal, but an apt way to start this post.)

The second half of April was indeed an interesting time. My poor mum fell and broke her wrist, requiring surgery on the same day that Small Man started his HSC mid-year exams. Which coincidentally happened to be the same day the huge Sydney storm hit (it lasted three days). The weather dropped fifteen degrees overnight and our gas heater died, joining the long list of breakages we’ve had in the last six months – the dishwasher, oven, airconditioner, microwave, alarm and our entire computer system have all needed repair or replacement.

Later that same week, we had a massive hailstorm (be warned, the video below is very loud). The hail obstructed all the gutters and drains on the roof, causing the skylight in the kitchen to leak like a sieve. The garden was completely shredded, but the chickens were fine. While we were trying to sort out the kitchen, water came in through the bedroom ceiling and soaked our bed.

It was a very interesting week.

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Maintaining routine seems to be the only sensible option at times like these.

I continued to bake – I find it very therapeutic – and our overnight sourdough loaves are perfect when things are chaotic. Because they involve so little hands-on effort and prove on the bench while everyone is asleep, they’re easy to fit into our routine, regardless of whatever else is happening. I baked these two loaves to trade with Andy the dishwasher repairman in exchange for a new seal on the powder dispenser. I gave him one loaf for the rubber seal, and one for being kind enough to deliver it to us…

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Fulfilling a promise I’d made the week before, I bought Grace a $10 pink wig. She refers to it as her mermaid hair. If you ever need to buy a hairpiece, I ordered this one online from The Wig Outlet and found them most efficient to deal with…

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On ANZAC Day, after clambering onto the kitchen roof to scrape off hail and positioning buckets under the skylight and hairdryering the bed, we needed a simple dinner. God bless Tanya and her easy Spanish recipes – chorizo tapas and vegetarian arroz caldoso, accompanied by garlic and cheese bread – were quick to make and perfect comfort food for a cold, wet evening…

 

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Over dinner, I raised the question of whether or not to cancel a $5 a month data plan on my phone. We’d put it in place when we were last away, but it hadn’t been used much in recent months. I pointed out that $5 was basically a takeaway coffee and it was good to have it there if we needed it.

Then Small Man said, “Mum, that’s $60 a year.”

Big Boy added…”That’s two dinners from the charcoal chicken place…”

Small Man.. “or a dozen games at the next Steam sale…”

Big Boy…”or eighty coffee pods…”

I can’t tell you how happy that conversation made me. It was reassuring to know that they’ve listened and absorbed the conversations we’ve had over the years about living within our means. Our sons never take anything for granted. I honestly couldn’t be any prouder of them. Needless to say, I’ve cancelled the data plan.

And you know, that three minute conversation was all it took to make everything right again. To readjust my brain and see the day as exciting rather than arduous, to give thanks for warm food shared with a loving family, to sit back and hold Pete’s hand and watch our sons animatedly converse over dinner as they always do.

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Even during the most interesting of times, life is always grand!

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