Pigeony Flock

For the last few months..well, years, Pete has been constructing a chicken coop for our flock. They used to free range in the yard because our older dog Sasha didn’t care about them in the slightest, however, Konrad the German Shepherd is a different barrel of monkeys. The type that was once caught towing a chicken around the backyard by her tail feathers, and that rushes at pigeons that dare to land on his territory.

We fenced in the bottom three feet of the coop when we built it to keep the girls safe from Konrad’s attentions, and finished the top panels a couple of months ago. We planned to put mesh over the top eventually, but the local pigeons forced our hand this last week as they’ve taken to dropping in for a feed of whatever the chickens have – their seed and their table scraps!

Pete got the mesh panels finished last night and we looked forward to our feed lasting longer..but we just came home to find 15 pigeons hanging out in our coop! Turns out they found a neat little gap between the mesh and decided to sneak in.

Pete’s managed to chase them off through the hatch we built into the front of the coop for feeding and is out fixing it up now, but his face when he saw pigeons on the roost was priceless!

It’s not the first time strange animals have turned up here and it won’t be the last, but it makes me wonder how often things like this happen to other people!

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Harvest Monday – it’s finally summer!

Except it’s not. Tomorrow is the start of Autumn and we’ve just reached a period of sustained warmth that has seen the eggplant and capsicums shoot up. The chilli plants have come on in leaps and bounds and I just haven’t been able to keep up with an active toddler and a hyperactive garden!

Pete has (almost) finished our new compost bays and they’re enormous! We just need to reset the doors, pop on some latches and go and find some horse manure at the properties near a local racecourse and by Spring we should have some lovely compost to use.

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Here it is!

It’s been a long time coming. The plants with smaller fruit have been providing little bits here and there, but the bigger guys have been biding their time.

I can’t remember which type they are because I gave the extra seedlings to Pete’s mum, but a couple of summer-weather days has helped a lot!

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Harvest Monday – January 2 2017

What a year 2016 was – as much as I wanted to be in the garden more, I had to learn to garden with a wee one in tow. It’s turned out as I hoped (chubby little hands stealing my tomatoes are the only ones I’ll tolerate) but it has been a learning process. A steep one, that’s included gardening with a certain person on my back, grabbing at plants and throwing me off balance sometimes, but it’s been fun just to see the way she makes a beeline for her favourite things, like pea pods and ripe red tomatoes.

This year, I’m going to try to record what I collect from the garden more diligently – I do know that by this time over the past few years, I was gifting people my excess tomatoes left, right and centre, but so far the season has been slow, and the vegetable patch is full of greenery and unripe fruit.

Sunday January 1

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  • 6 eggs (2 duck, 4 chicken)
  • 1x zucchini 517g
  • 1x bird’s eye chilli
  • 170g tomatoes (112g Sweet Bite, 58g Cherry)

Monday January 2

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  • 4 eggs (1 duck, 3 chicken)
  • 1x cucumber 213g
  • 1x capsicum 135g
  • 150g tomatoes (all Sweet Bite)
  • 1x bird’s eye chili
  • a handful of coriander

This is how I’m having to spot my Sweet Bite tomatoes at the moment – very carefully moving leaves and branches out of the way to look for the rosy red fruit. I only planted two of these plants, but they’re producing really well this year. I’m putting that down to sourcing my seedlings from a local nursery that grows their stock on site, so it’s all acclimated to my local area, as opposed to trucked in stock at the big green box. Next season hopefully I can start my own seeds – I normally have everything except tomatoes, eggplants and peppers from seed, but we weren’t organised enough last year!

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And what have I done with those tomatoes? Well, they’re a reliable snack for Olivia, so I hand them to her when I’m naking dinner. A bunch also wound up with some smoked chicken on pizzas for dinner tonight.

Wherever you are, I hope your garden is producing more heavily that mine!

 

 

 

 

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Harvest Monday

Happy Harvest Monday! It’s taken a while, but we’re back in the game in the Southern Hemisphere – an unusually cold and wet Spring saw us only getting the occasional hot day, and I think it’s thrown off the whole garden’s timeframe for everything.

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Yep, this is it so far – about 700g of cucumbers, 200g of peas, and a tiny handful of tomatoes. The eggs are a year round gift from my ladies, who have been joined by a new face – a lovely little red chicken we named Felicia Lay. All names henceforth are to be character/famous lady puns, and since she has stunning red plumage, our newest flock member was named for Felicia Day. Pete commented that he wanted to eat the cucumbers whole, crunchy and fresh from the garden, but I might slice them up for pickle chips if we don’t have salad in the next couple of days. The peas will probably be going straight to Olivia – if I give her them intact she hands them back with some teeth marks after a few moments, but if I hand her the sweet little peas straight from the pod they disappear pretty quickly.

Interestingly, the cucumbers are the only items from the harvest that were from plants placed by me – the peas are from the incredible multitude of pea seedlings that sprang up after I mulched with pea straw (from my normal place, but they must not have threshed the straw properly before baling – it was astonishing! I was pulling out pea shoots by the armful for the girls, and I’ve still got pea tendrils everywhere!) and the tomatoes were from yet another volunteer plant that sprang up, this time in the old wine barrel that my apple tree lives in. That seems to be a handy arrangement, as the tomato is a vining type and I’ve been winding it around the apple’s little limbs.

Speaking of volunteers…

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What are you? I think that this may be a jalapeno, because of the leaves it’s set. As you can see, it’s likely from fruit that dropped from an overhanging limb onto the path between the garden beds. I’m glad I wasn’t being too gung-ho with my weeding or I might have fed this little one to the chickens!

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This is one of the lovely little flowers on a mustard green plant that has a main stalk as tall as I am. I had to gently creep around it earlier today, as the neighbourhood bees were visiting and I had Olivia on my back to get the gardening done. I didn’t manage to catch a decent photo of the little visitors, but they’re from a hive that my neighbours down the street have in their front garden. Hopefully we’ll be able to have bees soon too!

And that gardening I had to do?

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It was mostly trying to give my tomato plants some space. This bed isn’t as pea-infested as my others because I didn’t top-dress the bed with the pea straw, but it did have my over wintered spinach. That’s the whippy looking stuff in the midground of the picture – throwing up seed heads all over the place. I was also glad I put gloves on for once – not one but two large Huntsmen spiders were living in the spinach forest, one of them a female with an egg sac. Ordinarily, I’m the spider saver in this household, telling Pete not to over react when he sees a harmless Huntsman or little garden Orb Weaver, but this time, they gave me the proper heebie jeebies. The largest one galloped off to the side of the garden bed, and I popped the expectant mother on the back fence – as creeped out as they made me today, they have a part to play in my backyard as non-web weaving, pest controllers.

And if they act up, I’ll send for Felicia.

Check out Dave’s link up of Harvest Mondays over at Our Happy Acres!

 

 

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Welcome to Frugal Friday! I’m going to start posting some money saving ideas once a week. Today I’m starting with a topic close to my heart – sneakers!

It might seem a little bit strange to other people, but for a long time I’ve had a preference for canvas sneakers. I have a ridiculously high arch and wear orthotics in my shoes most of the time to prevent foot pain, so having a shoe that can lace up to my ankle is beneficial.

Last time I bought shoes I wanted to diversify from my black-on-black colourway, and found navy and white shoes in my size on sale. The problem? White rubber shows a ridiculous amount of wear after being exposed to the elements on a daily basis. I did some googling and found that throwing the shoes straight into the machine wasn’t advised (how disappointing!) but that with some household ingredients and elbow grease, I’d be able to tidy my shoes up.

I got together a tablespoon each of baking soda, warm water and white vinegar and mixed together gently with an old tooth brush. I dabbed the bristles into the mixture and worked it into the shoe in a circular motion, canvas areas and then rubber toe cap and frogging. Because the rubber areas were quite stubbornly discoloured, I also added a small drop of dishwashing detergent to the bristles every so often.

Before:

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During:

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After (in the rain, where canvas shoes are not recommended!):

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Considering how discoloured they became over winter, I’m pretty happy with the result. It’ll save me buying new shoes for a while yet, so hopefully I can find a new pair on sale. It only took about 20 minutes, so I’m inclined to do this again more frequently with any future pairs as a regular form of upkeep.

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Sleepless in Suburbia

I don’t think anyone would try to make a case about sleep being unnecessary – I used to get by with four or six hours of interrupted sleep a night, but doing it whilr trying to keep a baby out of cupboards? Not my cup of tea.
Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve ben stretched a bit too thin, trying to get things done. I haven’t been doing a lot different to what I was previously – I’m just getting less sleep..and to someone who’s used to getting some dodgy sleep, less and poorer quality is a real issue.
The thing is, our little busy bee used to be a good sleeper, until I was sick in May. After that, she’d only sleep while she was touching me. That means that in order to get any rest I was bed sharing, which worked for us for a short period of time, but hasn’t been good in the long run. It’s just not comfortable for me to sleep like that with the back issues I’ve been trying to correct for the past few years, so I’d wake up constantly – waking her in the process!
I asked my maternal and child health nurse what we could do, and she booked us in for one of the CAFHS settling sessions at our local branch. It took a few weeks to get in and by the time we did I was at my wit’s end, but it was worth the wait.
Pete and I both went, and honestly, it was fantastic to have a nurse guide us through the process of getting Olivia down for day naps. We’ve been able to implement what we learnt during the session and we’ve both developed an appreciation for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Music to Dream By cd (really), since having it playing seems to help her settle down (who knew?! It was the only thing missing!).
I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence but in the last week Olivia’s also taken her first steps and is now walking up to a metre at a time, as though the extra rest is enabling her to string new skills together more effectively.
The better quality sleep is definitely helping me, but getting back into a schedule is taking some time. I’d be silly to expect to snap back to my former schedule too quickly, but we’re already waking earlier and getting more out of our day; I just wish the settling session had been offered when we first brought Olivia home, since we’re first time parents and admit we’re winging it.
Do you have any tips for settling a baby? I’d love any advice I can get, I’m happy to be an eternal student rather than close myself off to new ideas.

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Back to work!

Lately I’ve had a lot weighing on my mind; Pete’s work have been reshuffling so he’s back in a role he’s unhappy with, further from home and school. In a rush of dissatisfaction right after the change, he was looking for a new job and found something that I would be suitable for. Really suitable. Almost a precise counter to the position I’m on maternity leave from.

At the same time I mentioned that someone I’d been working with just moved across the country for a position that appeared to pay very well, and since then it’s been sinking in that I’ll need to get used to the idea of going back to work.

At the start we were anticipating huge childcare fees and that left both of us wondering if it would be financially worthwhile, however I pointed out to Pete that his new job is close to his mum’s house and she had offered to take Olivia when I go back to work.

It probably sounds a bit trite but the thought of going back to work and leaving her with others is terrifying – even if they are family. People don’t necessarily listen to or agree with opinions on parenting, and right now I’m having problems getting Olivia to sleep anywhere but my arms. I hate seeing her cry and the idea of not being there for her when she needs me brings tears to my eyes (especially since her favourite noises right now are a variation on mamam and mumum noises!).

I really did think this wouldn’t be as hard as it is, that she would have been babysat at least once by now, but we haven’t left her with anyone else yet.

It’s something we really need to work on, so we can all be a bit more comfortable when the time comes for her to spend time with other people – I’ll need to speak to our community health nurse and see if she’s got any suggestions!

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Rediscovering the lost (to me) art of the Library

Over the weekend my Dad recounted a little story from my childhood to Pete; the first readers I brought home from school when I was little were twice handed to Dad with a very sincere request for him to read to me. He didn’t think anything of it until he found, by talking to my teacher, that I was supposed to be reading to him as part of my homework! Needless to say, I didn’t get away with that trick any longer, and my Dad was certain to get me to read to him every night, and would from then on only read with me – two pages from me for every one he read out.

That, and his own interest in the written and spoken word bred a love of reading into me that took me through awkward primary school years, where a teacher reiterated a request for reading to be left for English and not Maths, and high school classes where I took every English course I could. I still wish I could have done ESL as well as the other two streams.

All of those years, and for any time I spend on public transport, I’ve kept a book in my bag to keep myself occupied. Lately it’s been a Kindle, my old faithful replaced last year by a Paperwhite when it stopped displaying anything but the charging screen.

All of these years, buying books from eBay, Book Depository, the lival secondhand book shop, downloading from Amazon – one might imagine my library membership would have been well excercised!

Nope. Apparently I completely forgot about the principle of the public library system.

Pete and I were walking with Olivia down the main street on Saturday, having just visited the grocer where he organises a fruit delivery for his work. I’d mentioned joining the library again when I was taking Olivia to our mums and babies group but was distracted on the day I’d planned to and never quite got back around to it. We wandered up to the counter and checked to see if I was still a member. I signed up when I was a kid but dropped off of the system when they upgraded, so I arranged a new membership. The rules have changed so much! You can have up to 100 items out, and rather than a local network of five libraries, the whole state shares resources and books can be dropped off and transferred to and from any location!

Honestly, you’d think I’d just discovered a new planet the way I’m going on but it was pretty exciting to peruse the cooking section and realise I can try all of the books and then buy any that I find particularly indispensable, instead of thinking that something looks good only to find I never use it (sorry Jamie’s Comfort Food, you’re gorgeous but Whole Food Slow Cooked speaks to me).

Anyway, Pete had to take our fruit and vegetables back to the car so we could carry Olivia and all of the books I borrowed. I’ve got them for a month so I started with the smallest, a little handbook called Fermentation for Beginners; it explains the roots and basic science of fermentation, then covers basic recipes from sourdough and pickles to kvass. It’s inspired me to try starting sourdough (again, I’ve never quite been able to get into the swing of it and keep up) and I’ve already decided I’d like my own copy in paperback because it seems like a really handy little book to keep around.

Hopefully we can go back again soon when we have a bit more time and I can check out the gardening section since we didn’t see much beyond the baby section (I grabbed a book on baby sign language) and the cooking section (as much as I could carry down the street without hurting myself). I can’t believe I haven’t been taking advantage of the library for so long – free books!

Does anyone have any book recommendations? I’d love some suggestions of things to look out for!

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Harvest Monday

My harvest this weekend was a bit of a downer – Konrad decided he’s interested in gardening again.

When he was younger, and only half grown, he developed an enjoyment of getting in to garden beds. At that stage, he’d do a bit of damage but he was mostly after eggs that the chickens had laid in clutches that they were hiding from him. Last Friday we had some appointments to go to and when we got home it was to find that one of our wicking beds had been attacked. Initially I thought it was just the wild weather, but seeing as though plants were pulled out roots and all, some just with snapped branches ..it doesn’t seem very likely. Hopefully they’ll be able to recover a bit before Spring rolls around so we don’t have to replace them. And it sure wasn’t our other dog, Sasha, because she can’t jump at all!

I’ll spend the next few days figuring out what to do with all of the chillies that came off of the plant, in addition to the other things we picked once the chilli plants were back in the ground. In addition to the food we picked, I’ve had a half of a huge Queensland Blue pumpkin that mum gave me – I made a curried pumpkin soup and got the filling ready for tortellini with some ricotta I made, as well as a roll filling, the last two with spinach from the garden as well! There are some dill pickles in the fridge for burger nights that I made from some cucumbers that I got from the local farmer’s market, but I haven’t quite got around to using the peaches mum passed on to me from their neighbour’s garden. I did manage to give the lavender a haircut the other day with Olivia’s supervision (she spent her time trying to eat lavender stalks), so I’ve got two jars full of blossoms to use..maybe in some soap.

One thing I will need to do soon – figure out how to use my Malabar Spinach! This one has almost overtaken the bed it’s in and I’m pretty sure I saw another one popping up nearby. We’re also considering a front garden plan now since we had a very fortuitous visit to the library over the weekend..but that’s a story for another day!

Check out Dave’s harvest at Our Happy Acres and then have a look at everyone else’s!

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