Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Our first egg

I feel strangely proud,  you see yesterday morning I found our first egg.

I am pretty sure that it was Myra who laid this first one. Her comb is the largest and she was acting a little strangely early that morning.

I found it when I went to let the chookies out at around 10am and it was still warm. Myra had made a lovely straw nest to lay her egg, in a spot behind a bale of lucerne, nice and tucked away.

I wonder why she chose that spot and not a nesting box?

I am not sure why I have this little strange feeling in my chest, after all Myra did all the work.

Myra on her first day in the coop -  she's a little older now
It's just that it feels like the beginning of something. We have been here 6 months now and progress has at times seemed slow.

But the winter vegetables are planted and thriving and the new vegetable patch is being fenced to exclude the wallabies. The citrus are in and soon it's time to buy bare rooted fruit trees.

The home paddock is now empty of agisting stock and is resting up but there are plans for a house cow and some sheep and maybe a pig.

I am tinkering with various little rehabilitation experiments to improve and support the native pasture. The dam wall, once scared by eroding hoofs, is now greening up with at least 5 different grass species all in late-autumn flower. I am starting to identify grasses from a distance. I am gradually winning the battle with the thistles by hand slashing and hoeing them and,

we have an egg, a beautiful native grass-grazed egg. And there should be another one this morning...

Monday, 29 April 2013

Other people's produce

Around here its Festival of the Falling Leaf time. The Festival of the Falling Leaf is a little festival based in Tumut which on the Sunday also holds an Antique Fair at nearby lovely Adelong. Yesterday I headed to Adelong to be festive and to pick up some local produce. Here is what I gathered.

The pumpkins and Fuji apples were grown by the regionally famous Pat Murray. Pat wins hands down the vegetable growing exhibits around the regional shows and has done for decades apparently.

I wish I had a picture of Pat and Pat's hands. To be honest I so often feel uncomfortable about taking pictures of people for my blog - it doesn't seem right. So, you will have to believe me, Pat has hands like a lumpy bumpy potato or perhaps a Jerusalem artichoke.

 I suspect its from his hands being in soil over years and years - perhaps if they were left in the soil long enough with a little gentle watering his hands would sprout. I wonder what they would grow?

The pumpkins cost a total of $7.50. I will have to think of pumpkin recipes...

And I also purchased some pickles and chutneys.

These were made by R&C Relishes of Windsor. It was their stall that caught my eye.

You see, they were trading on their show successes too!

This time, after asking permission, I took a photo of the proud pickle maker herself and her Lithgow Show Champion ribbon.

Thank you R&C Relishes of Windsor, may you continue to preserve.

Thank you Pat, may your hands continue to grow.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Found feathers

We are privileged to have some outstanding bird life at Highfield. Occasionally our birdy visitors leave a little feather for us to find and treasure. Here are a few of the feathers we have found at Highfield.

If  admiring the beauty of birds is your thing then you might also be interested in this post on fallen nests.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Weaving the reeds

On Sunday I joined a sustainable art  workshop sponsored by the Riverina Highlands Landcare Network and Tumut Council and utilised the skills and contacts of the Kosciuszko National Parks staff and local arty women. It was a great opportunity to learn a new skill or two, meet some locals and spend a day sitting in the dirt making things.

There were three sessions covering different art /craft practices but the one that a most enjoyed was the Aboriginal Weaving session led by the Indigenous Cultural Tour leader and expert weaver from Tumut National Parks office.

We used needle reed gathered from the local area. It had been dried and soaked  and kept wet to make it pliable. The reeds came in a range of different widths and colours.

We had examples of weaving to admire.

Example of a wrap and stitch method weaving
After a short intro on how to work our own basket we got down to starting off with making a circle.

Starting off with blanket stitch
We learnt a blanket stitch method and a wrap and stitch method and were gently encouraged all the way through our bungles and mistakes. As we sat outside under a tree working our little beginner's baskets and compared our workings with each other we could all imagine Wiradjuri women sitting by a creek lined with the needle reed chatting and doing much the same. The hours passed quickly.

Gradually our circles got bigger and bigger,

Loren's beautiful example of the blanket stitch method
Nikki's stunning first go at wrap and stitch Aboriginal Basket weaving with the blanket stitch method in the middle
My own attempt was quite mutant in the beginning,

but things got more regular as I went on and changed to the wrap and stitch method,

I love the colours of the reeds.

Eventually I finished the little sampler basket off.

I am quite pleased with my first attempt, imperfect as it is and can't wait to use the remaining reeds to make a bigger basket from scratch now that I have made this little sampler as a practice basket.

The sessions were held in the grounds of the beautiful Gilmore Hall.

All micro orb corrugated iron and wood - a stunning little piece of  simple rural architecture.

Thank you tutors and organisers for a fabulous day. Thank you all the women who took part - what a pleasant, quiet day of fiddling and chatting.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Bird watching

Highfield is a special place. Two-thirds of the property is protecting critically endangered grassy box woodland and forest. One of the many benefits is that the bird life that depend on the forest is outstanding  Here are a few of the visitors to the area around the house. How lucky we are to have a ring-side view of these beautiful birds. All photos are by the Lad.

A pair of young Gang Gang cockatoos with their outrageous fluffy top feathers
A Rainbow Bee-eater - this one is probably in Queensland now as they fly north for winter
Red-browed finches having a  two-tiered pool party
Closer but blurry 
A male White-browed wood swallow - handsome isn't he?
A male Fairy-wren moutling - in spring he will blue up again

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The garden in mid-April - Roots and shoots

In this the fourth  and last instalment of my garden in mid-April, I will focus on the roots and shoots I have in my patch this autumn / winter growing season.
My seed bed: L-R  - Radish, Rocket, Beetroot
I fell in love with the parsnip when living in Blighty. They were a different vegetable in Britain  sweet and tender and we ate them regularly but back in Australia I didn't find them as appealing.

This is the very first time I am attempting parsnips. I  never wanted to try when I was living in Sydney believing that a good frost was probably necessary to really make them deliciously sweet. So now we are living in the bush in a place that will definitely get a frost, I thought it was time to take the plunge and try my hand.

I am trying Hollow Crown from seed and have had no trouble in raising two rows. They seem to be growing well at least above the ground, but I suspect that my soil isn't good enough yet, or deep enough to get a great result.  Still I am happy with their progress so far.  When there is a little more room in the patch, I will be putting another row or two in.

I love beetroot.  I love the plant and love the root and eat it pickled, baked, boiled, grated and I find them so easy to grow.  This year I have had more difficulty than usual. You see it seems that Wallabies love beetroot too and as a result they grazed off two of my plantings of beetroot. The plants miraculously survived and I am now gradually pulling the roots that developed.

Radish were another favourite of the Wallaby and over summer we had hardly any of the crop. With the Wallaby excluded now I have a row that is being picked  and grazed on by us and some other creature why is taking off some of the red skin making them a bit spotty.

Yes, I know, not really a root more a swollen leaf base, but not sure where else to put it.  Not everyone's favourite, I have grown fennel for many years now and love them best from the garden.  I probably have about 30 in the patch at three different stages.

Here are two little fellas growing side by side - I obviously missed thinning it out.

Notice something missing?  "What, no carrots!", I hear you say. Yes, it is true, another vegetable I have never really managed to grow...

It's another of the things that are just so encouraging to grow because they are so simple. I have also discovered that the chooky girls like to graze on the rocket thru the veggie garden fence which is fine by me.

L-R: Muriel and Mavis being distracted from the rocket
Try as I might though, I couldn't get a photo with them actually pecking it, they must have found a bug in the grass.

Snow peas
One of my all time favourite things to grow and eat, my snow peas this year are a little disappointing  I suspect its the soil - it is still pretty average.  Nonetheless I am getting a pick.

Sugar snap peas
I am trying these this year for the first time.  I was inspired by Daphne's haul of sugar snaps and had to give them a go.

They are only just starting to produce now - I have had a small pick which, when combined with the snow peas, was enough for greens for two for a meal - early days yet.

So that's more or less my garden in mid-April. How is yours going?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The garden in mid-April - Onions

If you are not tired of my garden in mid-April tour yet, here is the third instalment - the onion family.

This season I am making a serious attempt at growing garlic. I have tried growing garlic before, but I am not sure I have ever been focused enough in the past to get a result I was happy with. This year I am trying Monaro Purple which are reputedly suitable for colder climates. I wonder what their origin is - the Monaro Plain of NSW? They look pretty good so far, I am certain every bulb I put in has come up.

They are Rocambole-style garlic which are hardnecks. The neighbours up the track had great success with this variety last year and so I am taking their lead. It is of course possible that it was their gardening skills rather than the variety of garlic that made the difference, but for now I am placing faith in the variety and a liberal dash of lime.

I love leeks, really love them. I also like how they look in the bed and love their huge round flower heads. These leeks I bought in punnet form, but I have another row in which is much less developed that have been raised from seed.

I always put leeks in quite close together, thinning out by pulling some quite young. On the right of the leeks you can see some parsnips on the way.

Spring onions
We seem to eat a lot of spring onions so I have a lot in.  They are mostly in pots but there are some in the beds. These have all been raised from seed. Again, like the leeks, I tend to plant densely.

Red Shallots
Years ago, when I lived in Britain, I grew shallots, red and brown ones and they were heavenly! Why it has taken me so long to grow them again I don't know.  It might have had something to do with space but now I have lots of space there is little excuse.

I haven't put these in yet as you can see. I intend to plant them in a couple of weeks, in the meantime I have prepared a bed for them and am asking the chooky girls to help out. This morning they ate a lot of slaters that were hiding in the parts of the bed that had lots of straw. They have done a fair bit of scratching around already.

(Apologies for the shadow of the photographer in the photo.)

Other oniony things
I also have chives and garlic chives in pots but I kind of call these things 'herbs'.

Yes, hmmm. You will have noticed that I don't have any onions in. To be honest, I am a little scared of growing onions. Scared is perhaps an exaggeration,  I think I don't like the idea of tying up a big area of a bed when I might be unsuccessful. If I think growing garlic is a challenge, I suspect growing onions is even harder. If you have any tips for success with onions (and garlic for that matter), It will be greatly appreciated. Perhaps I will take onions on next year.


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