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Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

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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The Summer Garden

We’re having a very pleasant January in Sydney, weather-wise. In previous years we’ve had scorching 40C+ days, but this year (so far) we’ve had decent rain and sunny days in the high 20s and low 30s.

Our minimally tended garden has thrived under these conditions, and the bed near the garage has gone completely bonkers…

We didn’t plant any tromboncino seeds this year – we never do anymore. We just wait to see what comes up. They’ve mutated so much over the past few years that each new plant produces slightly different shaped fruit to its predecessors. This year, a single, wildly vigorous plant appeared, produced half a dozen giant phallic squash within weeks, and then stopped flowering…

The trombies (as we continue to call them) have been delicious this time, but absolutely humungous – each is about half a metre long and several kilos in weight. There are still a couple in the bed, growing larger every day…

The plant only puts out female flowers on fresh growth and as it’s filled the bed to capacity, we’re now only getting male flowers…

Competing for space in the same bed are our highly productive snake beans! These are my favourite veg in the whole world and I’m overjoyed when they reappear each year. Oodles of self-sown plants come up each summer, and we toss in a few extra seeds for good measure…

The plants produce stunning orchid-like flowers…

We’re picking this many every day…

Right in the middle of the bed, a tall multi-headed sunflower grew and flowered…

Self-sown basil is also competing for space in there, as are our yellow cherry toms, although we haven’t eaten any of those this year – the warm wet weather has led to an infestation of fruit fly (the chickens have been feasting on them though)…

The bed closest to the house has had a slow start – the native Crested Pigeons were digging up our broccoli raab seeds as soon as we planted them. Our shiny bunting finally kept them away…

The raab only needed a few days in the warm soil to establish…

One plant hidden under the A-frame was missed by the birds, so we’ve got some to eat while the others grow up…

Purslane, our edible summer weed, is back in force…

French marigolds came into our garden in a little basket several years ago and never left…

Lovely Jo sent me arrowroot tubers a few years back with the suggestion that we might find them useful for mulch. They’ve grown magnificently, providing shade, mulch and a lush, tropical feel to our garden. They’re not great to eat though – we tried!

We’ve planted purple and green climbing beans – hopefully they’ll kick in once the snake beans are finished…

One of the back beds is awash in self-sown basil – we never have to plant basil in our garden any more…

A washed out photo of the neighbouring fig tree with fruit-laden branches hanging over our side of the fence (hooray!)…

The cucumber plants are looking promising…

Finally, our neighbour Mark’s passionfruit vine continues to sprawl over the fence to our backyard…

So far we’ve picked a dozen passionfruits!

How are things looking in your garden this month?

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White-Faced Heron

Last weekend, we had a magnificent visitor to our garden.

This stunning white-faced heron had flown in to hunt for lizards. We watched as he hopped down from Mark’s garage roof – I suspect our messy beds offer more reptile hiding spots than our neighbour’s neat and tidy garden. He might also have been attracted to our garden pond…

Standing at over half a metre tall, he happily posed for photos…

We were intrigued to observe the heron’s hunting technique, which involved rhythmically vibrating his neck from side to side…

We watched him catch and eat several small lizards during his short stay…

For any fellow birdlovers, there’s information on wiki about the white-faced heron, and here’s the page from the Michael Morcombe & David Stewart eGuide to Australian Birds…

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We were very excited – it’s not a bird we’ve had in our backyard before!

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